by Sean Croxton
Sometimes I disappear.
A month (or more) may pass between blog posts. The radio show will go silent. The weekly newsletters stop arriving in your inbox.
Some may misconstrue my disappearing acts for indolence or even a lack of passion for what I do. However, the truth is that my twice-a-year extended bouts of online inactivity substantiate my mission, not undermine it.
I mean, I’m not one to air anyone’s dirty laundry but consider how many health authorities “talk” about stress management while evidently not following their own advice — promoting “self care” but not taking really care of themselves.
I prefer to walk the talk. And if that means losing a few thousand subscribers or making half the money some people think I can make, I’m good with it. I love my job, but I love me more.
And sometimes I need a break.
Working primarily as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practitioner for 4 years, I learned some of life’s best lessons from my clients. One of which was that systemic dysfunction (hormonal, digestive, immune, etc.) and poor stress management were usually attached at the hip.
Most of my clients couldn’t find enough time in their busy schedules to sit down for lunch, let alone take a relaxing vacation, spend time with friends and family, or just veg out for a weekend and do nothing. They were always “on”, allowing business to supersede pleasure and taking care of others before attending to themselves.
At some point I decided that I had seen enough firsthand evidence to prove that my round-the-clock work ethic would eventually turn out to be my downfall. If something didn’t change, my health and relationships would pay the price. I’d become my clients.
While my work ethic will never leave me, I’ve learned that attempting to defy the natural oscillations of life will always end in a losing effort. I need to rest as hard as I work. There really is no getting around it.
So that’s why, after three months of working on a project and then the grueling, sleepless, putting-out-fires-on-the-hour-for-two-weeks-straight launch period, I have no problem taking a month off to mellow out, spend time with friends, and, of course, lie in bed in my Superman pajamas catching up on the last four seasons of the show everyone’s been talking about.
FYI: Online launches are like cigarettes, they’ll take years off your life if you let them…
I know, not everyone has the option of taking a monthlong leave from the workplace. I get that. But the point that I really want to make here is that lurking at the foundation of each of my stress management strategies was a “story” that had to be changed in order to create the space in my life (and mind) for self care to settle in.
Here are 5 of those stories and the stress-busting strategies that followed:
#1. I Have to Return That Email RIGHT NOW.
When you send someone an email, do you sit there on edge, staring at your monitor, waiting for a response?
Of course not! I sure as hell don’t. That would be weird.
But for several stressed-filled years, I was under the impression that as soon as an email hit my inbox, it had to be returned immediately. And if it wasn’t, the person on the other end would be bummed out and “disappointed” in me. This story had me literally chained to my inbox.
Here’s the truth. If it’s urgent, they’ll say it is. And if it’s REALLY urgent, they’ll friggin’ call you.
When you return an email immediately, it’s like an open invitation for the sender to hit you up whenever a random question pops up (usually something they could have Googled themselves). Before you know it, one “quick question” turns into a 20-email thread that typically ends uncomfortably. Just thinking about it stresses me out.
Due to changing my story around email I’ve become MUCH less neurotic about it. Each morning, I scan my inbox for any pressing matters that need to be taken care of. The ones that my assistant can handle get dragged over to her account. Then I save the rest for Friday’s designated email time.
This one has been a life changer for me.
#2. If I Take a Break I’ll Lose Fans and Followers.
The story I was clinging to here was similar to my email story above. I felt like my podcast listeners, blog readers, and video viewers would lose interest in what I had to say if they didn’t hear from me for a few weeks.
Let’s think about this for a minute…
My favorite TV show is Scandal. If you’re a fellow Scandal addict, you know very well that it’s on a two-month, mid-season hiatus. Despite the fact that I’ve had to get a little more creative about what I do with my Thursday nights, I haven’t gone so far as ousting Olivia Pope from my DVR settings.
I know the show comes back next month (February 27th, to be exact) and that my ass will be glued to my couch at 10pm so I can find out what happens next in the Mama Pope saga.
Hey, actors, producers, and writers need time off too. If they didn’t take breaks, the show would kinda suck.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
When you take time to recharge your batteries, you come back with a renewed focus and enthusiasm. Believe me, you don’t want me hosting the podcast year-round. You’d hate it. And so would I.
I will admit that there is some truth to this story, however. When I send out my first email newsletter after taking a month off, I get a mass exodus (like 1000 people) from my list.
Here’s how I handle this one: “If you unsubscribe, you’re not part of my tribe.”
It’s really that simple. The ones who matter will be there when I get back.
#3. I Need to Do Everything Myself!
In college I was the guy who would offer to do the entire group project myself so none of the other binge drinkers could screw up my grade.
In business it doesn’t work that way…
For the last year or so, I’ve been doing phone coaching with aspiring online entrepreneurs. One thing I’m always drilling into their heads is the fact that there is not enough time in the world to learn how to do graphic design, website coding, effective copy writing, and everything else that goes into an online biz.
When you try to do everything, you never finish anything.
I remember the days of standing in the Computer Technology aisle at Borders wondering which 600-page book on CSS or HTML I should buy.
Oh, hell no. Farm that sh*t out!
You’d be surprised how easy it is to find affordable help. There are literally thousands of fully capable people online on Elance, Odesk, and Craigslist, offering their services — things that you simply don’t have time for or just don’t care to do. There’s even a site called Fiverr where people will do almost anything (within reason) for 5 bucks! Use it.
Letting go of my “do it all myself” story opened up the brain space for creativity where stress once resided. I love my team. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.
#4. I Need to Say YES.
If I said yes to every invitation to appear on a podcast, present at an online summit, or give a talk on the other side of the country, I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to focus on those things I love to do most, like reading and preparing for radio shows.
I only say yes if it feels right and is a win-win for both sides. If not, I’ll pass. With a thank you, of course.
#5. I Need to Create Tons of Content.
There was once a time (not that long ago) when I thought my subscribers would love it if I created something new for them everyday — a podcast, video, email, or blog post.
The truth is that no one has three hours a week to read, watch, and listen to me. Besides, meeting that kind of self-imposed expectation is pretty much impossible.
Late last year, I felt a huge relief when I decided that two pieces of weekly content was enough — a new podcast on Tuesday and a video (maybe) on Friday. If I can squeeze in more, that’s just icing on the cake. If not, I’m more than happy with my weekly minimum.
Speaking of new content…
Last night on the podcast, my friend Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, and I chatted about even more strategies for nipping stress in the bud, including…
* Setting boundaries
* Establishing expectations
* Having the right attitude
* Allocating adequate time for creating new habits
Click the player below to listen to this episode.
See you next week!
Author, The Dark Side of Fat Loss