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