Dealing with stress


#1

I’m Will and I do Business Operations here at Monzo. I recently ran a session on how to deal with stress (you can check out the deck here :wink:) and I wanted to start a conversation on stress in the context of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

I have no training on this subject, but having always been able to handle stress, something snapped in me last year. I wasn’t able to process stress effectively any more. I had to adapt to get back to a position where I was able to deal with stress, so I wanted to share my experience with other Monzonauts and the community in case it helps someone.

The first step for me was understanding stress (spoiler: our stress response evolved to combat immediate physical dangers like lions, not modern day stressors like work). To that end, I’d recommend reading The Stress Proof Brain. One of the key learnings was that because of the wonders of neuroplasticity, we can retrain our brains (and by extension our bodies) to cope better with stress - and you can too.

Over the last year I’ve started doing the following things which help me manage my stressors. I hope you find some of them helpful:

Strict phone usage
I don’t check work stuff on my phone outside of work. No Slack. No work email. It does wonders for your mental health.

Morning exercise
Whenever I do yoga in the morning it sets me up for the day much better than when I don’t.

Practice mindfulness
I think the main issue with mindfulness is that it’s a terrible brand, but it’s great stuff. It basically translates to paying attention. When you’re attentive, you stop thinking about your stressors and focus on the thing you’re doing, which means you enjoy yourself more and stress less. Plus, as a bonus, your memory improves because attention and memory are directly correlated.

Go for a walk

Breath deeply
This tricks your brain into thinking you’re not under stress (and not in danger) which allows you to think clearly.

Embrace the stress
Specifically with work stressors, I tell myself that the stress I’m facing is a result of me being in a challenging position which will allow me to learn and grow. This logic can be applied to some other stressors but not all of them.

Write it down
Writing down what I’m stressed about helps me rationalise it and think through the problem. What am I really worried about? What’s the worst that can happen? What are the components of my stress?

I use expressions and thought processes I’ve created which give me some perspective on the stressors I’m facing, such as:

  • Asking myself: “Will I be thinking about this stressor in five years? If the answer is no, then it’s immaterial to my life and I should stop worrying about it. This question also allows enough space for worrying about material stressors, like a loved one having cancer. That’s something I probably will be thinking about in five years, so it’s fine for me to worry about that today
  • I remind myself that the only thing that really matters is my relationships (at least in my view). This is clarified when a loved one dies because nothing else matters - all your other worries float away. Therefore, if I’m worrying about a stressor which isn’t a relationship issue, then I remind myself it doesn’t really matter
  • And if that fails, I remind myself that I’m meaningless in the context of the cosmos which I find immensely reassuring!

Talking with my wife because… talking helps.

At the end of the session, I asked other Monzonauts how they combat stress and this is what came out of that discussion. We:

  • Drink less coffee
  • Walk without purpose
  • Take advantage of Monzo’s flexible hours, i.e. actually come in at 10am
  • Structure our days. For instance, if I know I’m only dealing with task X for the next Y period of time, I don’t need to worry about anything else right now
  • Talk with someone
  • Consciously tense muscles, e.g. clench our fists - rather than keep the tension in our stomach
  • Do some easy things that we’re good at because it raises our confidence
  • Get a pet
  • Look after our physical health first
  • Meditate
  • Have a routine before bed and do something between being on our computers and trying to sleep to switch off. As a corollary, make our bedrooms awesome to help with sleep, e.g. use aromatherapy, temperature etc.
  • Escapism, e.g. go to cinema; really dive into nature
  • Compartmentalise our stress, e.g. if I’ve given myself 15 minutes each day of “worry time” then when I’m stressing about something outside of that window I can tell myself: “I’ll worry about that in my 15-minute stress time”. By the time the “worry window” comes around, more often than not, I’m no longer stressed by the same thing. And if I am, I can deal with it with a cool head
  • Remind ourselves that it’s ok to say no to stuff. If we’re got too much on, or don’t want to do something, it’s fine for us to say no. This can be immensely liberating and ensure our plates don’t get too full

So what do you do to combat stress? :hot_coral_heart:


Community Roundup - 18/5/18
(Jack) #2

Fantastic read! There are some points I can take away from this, so thank you!

I often find inadition to some of the above the below help me to reduce stres:

  • Go for a drive somewhere in the car, this helps me take my mind off things.
  • Finding something to make you laugh, if you can look on the funny side of some situations it often helps!
  • Music sometimes helps me concentrate on something I’m finding stressful. I think the general background noise helps.

As I think of anymore I’ll add them above :hugs:


#3

This was a very interesting read. It’s funny, I was speaking to a chap I work with just yesterday about this subject.

I too deal with stress quite well, I am a fairly laid back person in life and so manage to brush things off fairly easily and remain focused. This in turn allows me to remain calm under pressure, not get flustered, deal with problems in a controlled manner etc.

What struck a cord most with me, however, is this quote:

I learnt this lesson a number of years ago. I used to take work home with me all the time, always having work emails on my personal phone, working on things in my own time etc. I had three weeks off one Christmas as I had loads of holiday left to take and I just switched off entirely. By the end of the first week I have stopped even thinking about work and it was a revelation.

That job is long since passed but the lesson remained with me. Don’t get me wrong, I do still have Slack on my personal phone and occasionally check emails but only about 1/10th of what I used to do and unless there is an emergency or planned out of hours work I now keep work and personal completely separate. It is a far more healthy way to live!


(Aaron Bamford) #4

I’ve dealt with stress in a few varying ways, the one thing that I notice that improves my mental health the most is regular exercise.

As well as exercise I find the biggest benefits I’ve found include:

  • Cutting down on Alcohol (no binge drinking, the odd drink at the weekend with friends)
  • Actually getting out of bed at a reasonable hour on weekends.
  • Socialising, making sure I don’t isolate myself as an excuse to deal with stress.
  • Self care (Whatever works for you)

#5

Awesome, I’m glad you liked it!

And I completely agree, laughter is key… it’s amazing what it does for you. If I’m stressed or feeling a bit down, I like singing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJUhlRoBL8M

It always cheers me up :wink:


(Jonathon) #6

Really enjoyed this. Will certainly be checking out some of the tips and seeing how it helps.

I absolutely without a doubt recommend the work life balance - work is for work hours. No checking or thinking about it outside of those hours.


(Dan) #7

I’ve just ordered that book on Amazon (using Monzo obvs) based on your recommendation. It’s arriving tomorrow.

Alongside all these recommendations…

  • I don’t look at my phone in the morning until I’m commuting, or I’ve spoken to my partner/had breakfast and got ready for the day
  • I’m profoundly deaf, so I have the luxury of taking my hearing aids/cochlear implant out to attain complete silence. For those of you that can’t do this, well, buy some earplugs or something.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar and anything that is bad for you!
  • Buy one of these to ensure you get your 2l daily water intake, or download WaterMinder. When I’m hydrated I tend to think clearer.

#8

That’s great, I hope you like it.

I particularly liked the book’s explanation of the evolutionary science behind stress. Understanding what stress is has probably helped me get a handle on it more than any of the techniques I use…


#9

This is another great book in the same vein :smiley:

Its a really interesting read, makes some valid points and offers a good alternative perspective on day-to-day life. Highly recommend.


(Eve) #10

This is a really great thread. I generally deal with stress quite well with regards to academic work/ work, but administrative matters (council, passports, fees) frequently stress me out because often I don’t have control over how long I have to wait/ if I hit a stumbling block somewhere. Not having control over something frustrates me a lot.

I usually stress nap and that usually gets rid of any tension and lets me look at the situation on a fresh outlook. I drink lots of tea while working on any assignments and that helps calm me- I read everyday for 1-3 hours and I switch it to reading around my research topic when I have a deadline near so that helps a little.

I compulsively check slack when I procrastinate, since I’ve locked my phone with Forest but I can still access it on my laptop. I haven’t found something to stop this yet.


(Jack) #11

That app sounds great. I’m going to give it a go!
I find I’m the opposite to you. I get stressed about academic stuff rather than administrative.
You can’t beat a good nap either as long as you nap wisely :grinning: and try not to use it as another excuse/distraction to things you need to do ( I’ve done this in the past). :speak_no_evil:


(Amy) #12

I was at the event held at Monzo HQ tonight and I just want to say thank you for hosting and bringing these great minds together - so insightful!!!

Some very great tips in this thread too - I’m going to add those books to my reading list! I’ve just come out of a particularly stressful time of my life, job transition where I didn’t really find my fit, to being back on the job hunt and now about to embark on a new work challenge which is super excited about. I kind of lost myself in the process but I’m grateful that I’m coming out of the other side and feeling like I’m finding myself again with so much more positivity… Thank you for using Mental Health Awareness week as a great platform to get everyone thinking more and talking more about our mental wellbeing :heart:


(Eve) #13

I’d really recommend it to everyone who gets distracted by their phone too much- plus, you can use the points you save up to plant a REAL tree and help combat deforestation! :raised_hands:t3:

I don’t like admin things, because it involves having to speak to a ton of people and get frustrated by ~bureaucracy~ because nothing is efficient or helpful or the websites look like they’re made in 2000 with basic HTML and no useful info, and there’s nothing you can do about it.


(Marcel Ruhf) #14

I wish I could be so disciplined.

It’s an interesting topic. My employer ran a session some months ago, via an external partner - interestingly (and something I have noticed myself), stress to a certain level can actually have a positive impact on your overall productivity - it’s when you reach that turning point where it impacts you negatively where you need to start trying to deal with it.


(Andre Borie) #15

bureaucracy

Just wondering, what kind of bureaucracy do you need to do and why? I’ve always found the UK to be quite good in this regard - as a foreigner I believe the only time I needed to do bureaucratic nonsense was to obtain my NIN, and that was 3 years ago; nothing since then.


(Eve) #16

NIN was very smooth for me. Generally things like voting/ local council stuff is really quick, but I was trying to sort my council tax exemption for ages online with no reply so I had to go into town to sort it. Not going to go into details but UKvisa messed up my visa renewal and I chased them for months for a refund on some of the costs before going back home to sort it with the local visa team. They keep bouncing you around different numbers and emails with no proper response.

Attempting to do a passport renewal at the embassy was painful. Also had to sort some forms at the Malaysian embassy in London and the whole process took over 9 months. I had already been back to Singapore twice during that time and didn’t expect it to take that long or I’d have sorted it in SG :cry:

Also other things like trying to register for the doctors at university that takes 5 weeks, 3 weeks to get an appointment etc. No wonder so many people self-medicate :cold_sweat: ah and when my university “lost” my payment of £13k and it took 2 weeks to be found :weary:


(Jack) #17

Does the forest app require you to leave your phone unlocked and plugged into power?


(Eve) #18

You can lock your phone, as long as you don’t navigate away from the app before you do.


#19

I love stress… At least in the context of work (divorce / marriage / love related stress a lot less fun) its one of the joys of work for me. I would have zero interest in a non stress or low stress role. Its stress that wakes you at at 4am… Its stress that has you pacing the room, solving whats thrown into the days mix, juggling your schedule… Its stress that makes you barely notice a day has flown by, you havent stopped for anything to eat in 12 hours, that you have gone from problem to problem creating solutions.

I would be climbing the walls with boredom if a job didnt challenge me WAY outside my comfort zone. In fact I simply wouldnt have any motivation without it.


(Richard Cook) #20

I know it’s kind of a cliche - but I often find that laughter is an incredibly effective tool for dealing with my own stress.

Whether that’s going to a comedy gig (which I’m even ok with doing on my own these days), or just watching a vine compilation on youtube (they’re addictive, trust me) - I find that just the physical process of laughing is really beneficial.