My Recent Stress & Finding New Ways to Combat It

The last month or so for me has been, oh how do I say it…crazy.  And I’m not going to lie, a lot of the craziness and stress has been self-induced.  Through all of this, I’ve learned that a lot of my typical de-stressing activities were suddenly not doing the trick anymore.  It has slowly trickled through to a lot of different aspects of my life and it sucks.  At times, my typical upbeat self has felt anything but that.  With typical methods not working, I have been searching for other means to de-stress.

What’s Going On? 

First, I figured I would give some insight under the hood as to what has been going on.  Remember, I said a lot of this has been self-induced.  So please keep that in mind when reading through this.   First, I have not exactly had a recently pleasant experience at work.  Despite a recent promotion, I’m really growing tired with the day-to-day aspects of the job and there are some aspects that have driven me crazy.  I’ve been trying to keep my work at the office when I leave, physically and mentally.  But mentally disconnecting from a job in public accounting is much more difficult than advertised and I am not winning this battle.  To compound on top of that, my dissatisfaction grows with each consecutive night sleeping in a hotel for work.

What is different now than recent years (or even recent months for that matter), is that my frustration with travel is not linear. X number of nights does not equate to a certain frustration level.  Rather, I’ve found that even spending one night on the road has left me really frustrated.  I’ve tried reducing trips from 4 nights per week to one or two.  While that has helped in the short-term, I still find myself frustrated that I am away from home and most importantly, my wife.  Traveling and the day-to-day frustrations have seemed to put me in a funk that can be difficult to snap out of.  It freaking sucks.

Sure, all of us that share the same desire and journey towards financial freedom and early retirement.  Make it through our day job and turn the night into side-hustling time.  Get through 9-5, work your tail off at night-time, in order to shake the 9-5 job all together.  Come on, I know you know what I’m talking about.   In the past I would use the evenings to de-stress, read blogs, become motivated, side hustle, and snap out of the funk.  It would work.  I would leave each evening relaxed and excited that I have spent some quality, focused, and relaxing time talking to Lanny about our website, finding stocks to invest in, and interact with all of you.  I always enjoy taking some time with a beer or a glass of tea reading articles and getting to learn about your stories.  It has been one of my favorite, “post 5 o’clock”, activities.

We know by now that I purchased a house recently that required some TLC.  Over the last month or so, that has taken up a significant portion of my evenings and weekends.  My wife and a few family members spent over 12 hours each past weekend day together, working on the house.  This is in-conjunction with my time over the last few weekends, including a few Fridays off from work.  I have sunk a lot of time and money into this house and I know it will be worth it.  However, right now, it is taking a huge chunk of time away.  Again, I knew this going in and I am the reason why this is going on.  I bought the house for goodness sake and I knew it would need the work.  But it is starting to hit me just how expansive of a project this has been and how I haven’t had any time to relax and de-stress.

To add in another layer here, I don’t want to stop blogging during all of this.  So in the few hours or the days that I have had away from my house or where I am not on the road, I have tried to “blitz” working on the blog.  Pressing to get an article out or comment on blogs, often when I am stressed from work or trying to coordinate some housing projects for the weekend.  This usual de-stressing activity has flipped at times and has caused some additional stress as I press to compensate for the time I have not been able to spend with all of you.  

Some New Methods of Stress Reduction

Phew, thanks for listening to me there everyone.  I figured some context may be helpful to understand the general premise of this article.  I’m excited that I have found a few new activities that will help me out over the next month, until the madness ends.  Interestingly, this list of de-stressing activities does not include a daily workout or reading more books (which is one of my goals in 2017).  I’ve tried this in the past, and setting goals to hit the gym or have an intense workout has not gotten the job done for me and hasn’t held up in the long run.  Reading isn’t included on this list either because most evenings I am too drained to focus on a book. Without those two activities, here are some of the activities I have been trying.

Activity #1 – Walks with My Wife – This may sound like a no-brainer, but my wife and I have taken several 30 minute to 1 hour walks together over the last month.   In fact, we took one right before I wrote this article.  We don’t typically have a set destination for our walks.  We just kind of wander around and see where we end up.  I love it.  During our walks, we are talking about random things that happened during the day, conversations we had with others, and catching up on life.  We also love observing the scenery, comment on each house, garden, or front porch that we pass to see what we can implement in our new house.  One funny thing we do is walk past the same house each day and ask, ” Why this house”?  Well, there is a two-foot tree stump in front of this house.  Instead of cutting down the stump, the family places a massive potted flower or plant on top of the stump.  It looks ridiculous and makes us crack up laughing every time we walk by it.

It is relaxing and often times her random comments make me laugh and relax.  The fresh air and the exercise are also nice side benefits of taking our walks.  This time on our walks help us clear our mind and drive our focus away from some of the other stress points in my life.  I come back from the walk relaxed and excited to tackle the rest of the night. Again, I love it.

Activity #2 – Unplugging – Some of my favorite times of my evening are when my phone is charging in a different room and my laptop is closed.  So much of my day is spent staring at a computer screen, taking phone calls, or whatever other stuff may happen, that it is nice just to step away from it all.  This can happen on our walks or later that evening when we are home.  But not feeling tied to my phone, not rushing to respond to the last comment on our blog, or instantly responding to the last reply we had on Twitter, has been nice and has allowed my wheels to slow down when needed.   Other benefits have included fewer headaches, sleeping easier after time away from my screen rather than 30 minutes of staring at it, and better focus on whatever I am doing during that unplugged time-frame.  This isn’t rocket science and I’m sure everyone knows that.  But it is easy to lose sight of this during the constant madness of your day-to-day activity.

Activity #3 – Watch Music Videos – This one is one of my favorites when I cannot fall asleep at night, in some random hotel room, because my mind is racing (work or life induced).  I’ll pull my phone over and watch a handful of music videos from my favorite artists.  This includes old Led Zeppelin Shows, live performances by Queen, awesome drum solos by Rush, the madness of a live Red hot Chili Peppers performance, or one of my favorites, the old MTV Unplugged episode featuring Nirvana.  Watching the music video, rather than just listening to the music, makes a huge difference for me because it forces my mind to focus on the video of a song that I really enjoy.  This focus allows my mind to forget what was bothering me and helps me fall asleep.  It isn’t conventional, but I have used it successfully many times over the last few months.

Activity #4 – Finding Laughter – What the heck does this one mean?  One thing that I have always tried to do since I attended college is to try to find the humor in any situation.  It could be the worst experience, but I am always going to try to make myself laugh.  Recently, I’ve started expanding this via TV or a streaming service.  I know this isn’t the most productive use of time.  But when I’m feeling out of it, I have tried finding a comedy special on Netflix or a TV show that will make me laugh.  Some nights I seek witty humor and some nights I seek slapstick humor.  Getting myself to laugh always helps lift my mood.  My wife and I have been watching a TV show over the last year or so-called, Impractical Jokers.  To keep it short, it is about four high school friends that have each other perform or say ridiculous things on command to strangers.  The tasks aren’t too vulgar nor are they violent.  It is just some good old-fashioned humor of seeing how four friends can embarrass the others in public without any advance notice.  I leave each episode laughing and we are often cracking up throughout the episode.

Summary

 This will change once my housing projects are over.  I know that and will soon have extra spare time on my hands.  Here is what’s funny, I’ve noticed that these de-stressing activities do not have to end when this madness is over.  I love the way I feel when my wife and I go on walks, I unplug, or take some time to myself.  There is no reason that I cannot continue to do these activities on a regular basis and improve my day-to-day mental health.  They are easy to do when I’m stressed, so they should be easier to do when I’m not, right?

What are some of your favorite de-stressing activities?  What has worked or what has not worked for you in the past?

Bert

The image in this article (“Business vector”) was created by Freepik

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31 thoughts on “My Recent Stress & Finding New Ways to Combat It

    • Actuary on Fire: Agree! Walking our dog is a great stress relief after work, and a good way to start my “engine” in the morning.

      Bert: your comments about unplugging are spot on. It is not rocket science as you say, but easy to forget. I also find it very helpful to do something else than looking at a screen in the late evening. Thanks for an interesting post!

  1. Hey Bert!
    I did some traveling for work at the beginning of my career and I found it both exciting and tiring at the same time. Hotels and restaurants are fun at first, but they quickly become part of the job and seems to add “work hours” to your shift.
    My best de-stressing is running. Warning; at first, you don’t even want to complete your first 1km. You feel heavy, you sweat, you have to catch your breath and it is, mostly, frustrating at first. But then, after a few runs (give it a 2 weeks tryout with 3 runs per week), you will discover a whole new set of emotions. I feel happier, healthier and I have more energy to go through my day. The best part; all my problems went off with my sweat!
    However, ultimately, you will have to make an important decision about your job:
    #1 keep this job and feel mediocre most of the time
    #2 quit this job and live a fulfilling life
    I hope you will choose the latter as too many people choose the first option in the name of God Money. The truth is that there is money everywhere, you don’t need a job you hate to make some 🙂
    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Mike,
      Agree – at the beginning of your career, traveling seems amazing. The points, the food, all of the fun stuff that you get to do away from home. The one thing I always enjoy is that it helps boost my savings rate. But there is definitely an element of adding time to your work and how it extends your day out. Nothing is worse than sitting at a long dinner when you know there are so many other productive things you could be doing with your life.

      Maybe I should give running an extended try. My wife loves it and has run 5-6 days a week for the past month. I’ve never consistently stuck to it or prioritized it during my day, so maybe it is time to change that around a little bit.

      Damn – those are some big decisions to make haha We both know which is the right answer to choose here and I’m going to leave this with a whole new perspective on life, what’s important to me, and how I want my “job” to fit into the picture of all of this. Because I hate the way that it is fitting into my life right now.

      Thanks for the great comment!
      Bert

  2. Hey bert. Been there i had a list of stuff to do once we bought this place. It stressed me out big time. Slowly but surely the list got smaller. The big projects drove me nuts tho. 2 years later there is still projects on the go. Thats home ownership but its nice to make the house yours!
    To relax i like to
    Have a beer look at my portfolio and read blogs like you.
    Take the dog for a walk.
    Play with the kid.
    Watch a movie especially at cineplex *cough cough* support my stock
    Just drink with friends
    Read a book.
    Have the “sex”

    Keep it up. Your gonna love it once its all done and if your like me you will get bored when theres nothing to do.

    • Thanks PCI! You’re probably right about loving it and being bored when all is said and done. But for now, I cannot wait for the weekend where I have nothing to do, fire up my laptop, and have a nice beer or cup of coffee and read blogs. I appreciate this that much more and cannot wait to come back out of the gates firing on all cylinders
      That’s a great list of activities by the way, thanks for the laugh. Gotta love when you also can support your stock while de-stressing

      Bert

  3. I agree with DivGuy that running is a great way (at least for me) to de-stress. I have been in a similar situation to you with a lot of stress recently, driven by special projects and increasing demands at work, keeping my blog up and running, and trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life with my wife and kids. The pursuit of financial freedom via passive dividend or real estate income, multiple jobs and side hustles, and other means is a great goal, but many of us need an occasional reminder to live in the moment. It sounds like you are doing a better job with this recently – congratulations!

    • Retiring on My Terms,
      Thank you so much for the comment. We all want the same thing and are pushing for the same endzone here. But you hit a huge point, we can’t focus so much on the end that we let life pass us by and we miss all of the fun opportunities along the way. There is a great balance between frugality, FIRE, and enjoying the current environment around you. Making sure there is a balance is important and will be a focus of mine going forward. As I told DivGuy, I really need to give this running thing a more serious, long term try. Hopefully you are able to strike a nice balance while your work is clamping down on you.

      Thanks,

      Bert

  4. I feel you man! My job bums me out quite often but I’m glad you are finding some ways to decompress. That is so important. For me, it is working out and spending time with my wife and boy. The stuff he says really cracks me up. He’s 3. I’ve also found the show Impractical Jokers lately. Watch it right before bed if you need a really good laugh. Works for me! Take care and relax!

    • Mr. Defined Sight,

      What’s funny after reading the comments is that everyone seems to have experienced spells like these at some point while working and taking care of other things. I can imagine the stuff that comes out of your three year olds mouth. My niece would have us cracking up when she was 3. She is five now and the good news is that the funny comments just keep on coming. I cannot wait till we have a kid where I can share the same experiences. My wife and I definitely end our nights watching Impractical Jokers and it is a great way to end the day on a happy note. Those guys are hilarious!

      Thanks for the comment.

      Bert

  5. Hey Bert,

    thanks for sharing – a lot of what you write sounds familiar to me. – When i started my career i volunteered for a unit where a lot of travel was involved. At first it was cool to be on the road with a team and visiting different cities. But after about 2 years i got tired of it, especially leaving my girlfriend at home. Finally i transferred into another division and when i look back it was a good decision.

    I like your destressing activities a lot. What works for me is running. Although i have to kick myself sometimes to go, it feels good to on my running route, music on and let the thoughts drift. And i like watching music videos:-). Especially those where the story in the video fits to the song, really love that. The music i listen to is Daughtry, Lifehouse and TimMcGraw, Kenny Chesney, Cole Swindell and others…
    When the day is over i often “dive” into a novel and i like that cause there is no “room” in the head beside the story…relaxes a lot.

    Take care!

    DividendSolutions

    • Dividend Solutions,

      I swear, unless people are single or love traveling, the majority of people that travel for work have the same story and same realization about being on the road. It particularly becomes harder when you have someone at home that you want to spend time with. What kills me is that when I get home, after eating out all week, my wife wants to go grab dinner somewhere. But since I have eaten at restaurants all week, I am looking for a nice home cooked meal. It is hard to find ourselves on the same page in terms of eating out.

      I love watching music videos and I’m happy there is someone else out there that also enjoys doing that as well. Music videos can be dumb, but it is always cool when they line up with the song. I hate thinking “What the heck does this have to do with anything??” But I’ve also been a fan of watching live performances and seeing the energy that comes from a perform when performing in front of a stadium full of people. There is just something fun and exciting watching people who are passionate about their music put on a show of a lifetime.

      What type of novel’s do you like? Is there a certain genre or authors?

      Bert

  6. I had a very stressful job where I was responsible for a lot of employees. Hiring, firing, union negotiations, constant regulatory scrutiny made everything seem like a top priority. I’m early retired now and don’t miss that life but while I did it I managed the stress by taking morning runs at 5AM and playing hard singles tennis three or four times a week, usually in the evenings after work. My wife also ran and tennised with me and without me. We also had hobbies hiking and fishing and skiing and, I forgot, we raised three self sufficient millennial adults through that period as well. Frankly the physical activity and fun hobbies, many shared with my wife and kids made it very manageable. Plus I never worked a single minute longer than absolutely necessary, I was out of there and home most days on time.

    • Steveark,

      I haven’t played tennis with my wife in a while, but we loved playing back in the day. Our new house is a two minute walk from tennis courts, so we will be doing that a lot. What I like about your list is that a lot of the activities involve the outdoors, enjoying some fresh air, and stepping away from a computer/activities that are driving your stress.

      That last sentence is something that I need to be much better at. I have a hard time working the minimum amount of time needed and I know that. A big improvement area for me.

      Take care and thanks for the great comment.

      Bert

  7. One thing that’s really worked for me is guided meditation; I use the Headspace app, though I know there are others. It takes 10-20 minutes per session, and is backed by solid science on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. I would suggest you give it a try.

  8. Sounds like a though time… I think it’s not too surprising a lot of the FIRE people experience these levels of stress from work, and/or some other projects. At my work we currently have the busiest season of the year and I’m not at all motivated. In order for me to de-stress, I have to find another focus, like seeking out connection with others (family/friends), walking in a forrest with the Mr. or something like working in the garden.

    Laughter is really a good point, by the way. A positive mind is the best thing you can have.

    • Divnomics,

      What I’ve found through this article and the comments is that I’m not alone in feeling this way (as you said). Almost everyone has seemed to experience this at one point or another, and that is great to hear for me. After this is all done, I’m going to focus on doing exactly what you said and focusing on building relationships and what is important to me. That’s what important and life and that is where I should be focusing on. Do what makes you happy, what makes you laugh, and you will find the happiness that you are craving.

      Take care and thanks for the amazing comment!

      Bert

  9. All the best. Happy to see you have found some tricks for the stress.

    Doing sports is a big destressor for me. It now is even part of my work routine: I bike 5K to the train station. This little ride offers a lot of benefits to me.

    Meeting friends or doing fun stuff with the family is a also a good one!

    • Amber Tree,

      I love that you found a way to get a work out in on your way to the train for work. Take some of that down time you are spending in traffic and turn it into an activity that you love. That’s what it is all about!

      Bert

  10. Hi Bert
    That’s a lot of stuff you are currently concerned with and your de-stressing acitivities will certainly help you during this time. Many things you are describing sound very familiar to me. Interestingly, it always helped me to drink A LOT OF WATER when I feel stressed and to reduce coffee, coca cola etc.. Our body tends to dehydrate in stressful situations making us feel even more uncomfortable.
    Take care!
    Financial Shaper

    • Thanks Financial Shaper,

      That is really interesting. Come to think of it, I know for a fact that I don’t drink nearly enough water. I’ve been trying to drink less coffee recently, replacing my morning mug wit ha protein smoothie and drinking less during the day. Guess what? I feel great when all is said and done. Now I just need to start supplementing that with water as you suggested and I’ll see how much better I feel after that.

      Thanks for the great suggesting!

      Bert

  11. Hi Bert,
    Of course, it sounds familiar to most of us, thanks for sharing! Even though my job does not require to travel a lot (once or twice a year, usually) and I leave my workplace exactly in time most of the days, there is often a feeling that I don’t want to do anything else in the evening. The easiest thing seems to be to watch some TV series with my wife or play some video games. However, I am trying to limit time spent like this. So this is what I tend to do to cope with stress:
    1) Running. When I come back form work, I usually feel too tired to go for a run. However, I noticed that 99% of the times I feel more energetic after a run. So I say to myself that it will definitely be worth it and go out. I am training for my first marathon which I will do in a couple of weeks time!
    2) Walking with my wife (what you also do). I think this is much better quality time spent with my wife rather than watching some TV series. We also speak about our days, about our dreams (usually that’s my part) etc. What I am trying to avoid now is buying some take-away coffee during our walks. We usually spend 4-5EUR for that so I would need to invest quite a lot to offset that 🙂
    3) Whiskey on rocks. I sometimes treat myself with a glass of whiskey while reading some blogs or a book in the evening. Of course, I try to do that no more than once a week and one glass. It does not go well with my training plan for marathon.. Even though research says that alcohol reduces quality of sleep, I think it’s sometimes useful to calm the nerves.
    Thanks,
    -BI

  12. You’re out of your conform zone for the moment. But, that’s what makes us stronger, eventually! Promotion, traveling, new house, all those things are putting much stress right now. Thinks of things that are most important for you. If you don’t like the promotion, maybe there’s an option to roll-back.

    For me, hitting the gym 5 times a week helps me a lot to destress after long days of work. I do accounting as well :). All these year-ends, accruals, reconciliations are driving me nuts, but gym helps.

    Good luck!

  13. I’ll bet those hotels you’re staying in have a gym or at least a “fitness center”. As a fellow road warrior, my advice to you is to take advantage of them!

    I find that when I’m on the road, spending an hour working out WITHOUT the phone (leave that charging in the room or whatever) is extremely helpful.

    I like to do it at the end of the day because it helps release any stress that’s built up. Also it clearly defines the end of the work day and the beginning of “my time”. I also put the TV on ESPN or sitcom reruns or similar. No news…no stock markets…nothing that might wind me up.

    I’ve never slept that well in hotels, but exercising makes a big difference in that regard, which carries over to the next day b/c the stressors don’t have as much influence after a good night’s sleep, etc.

    Travelling sucks, there’s no way around that. But there are a lot of things you can do to make it much more tolerable. I’ve found exercising to be absolutely crucial.

  14. I think it is great that you are so open about the current struggle. Recognising that there is a struggle and you need to do somehting about it can prevent you burning out entirely.

    For me unplugging is one of the best things for destressing next to playing with my kid. I also use sports (3 times week) and defintely take my break on work outside instead of staying in the office.

    Please keep paying attention to your health both mentally and physically!

  15. Shit gets stressful sometimes for sure. I’ve found exercise, meditation, yoga/stretching at home, unplugging (including deleting facebook etc) to be really helpful. Being OK with saying no (at both my jobs, and sometimes to friends) has helped tons.

    Hope the storm is soon over Bert.

  16. I understand what you’re going through. I’ve been there. Once you hit FI/FU money your stress level will decrease and you will have options. Keep up with physical fitness, clean eating, drink water and work on staying in the now.

  17. Think everyone gets there buddy, don’t worry. For a while I was really burnt out with full time work, website, social life, and trying to study and take grad classes on top of it. It is a lot for sure. One thing is don’t underestimate the power of sleep. Yes it isn’t productive but it keeps you health so you can remain doing all the things you want to do for longer. I isn’t always Ideal but vacations are awesome. Even if they are just a weekend thing. Also, I love the jokers. That is on in my house all the time. Probably have seen every episode. It is one of the only shows that actually makes me laugh, really hard. Everyone has their own thing and ways of coping with stress. Just keep doing what works best for you.

    • Also, forgot to mention. I know a lot of people find solace in writing. So writing blog posts or just putting their thoughts on paper can be a big stress reveler. Or working out. Even though you already have take walks on there. Plenty of options out there!

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