How I… learned to manage my stress
February 2022   BODY & MIND

How I… learned to manage my stress

An American-born expat business owner shares how she’s managed to balance her working life and even find time to write a book.
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Connecticut-born author and event designer Jess Indeedy, 44, shares how she has learnt to navigate the stress of running her own London-based company and how it’s led to her latest creation – an exciting, fun and life-changing book… 

When I look back, I think I was on the verge of burnout. It was 2016 and my company had just had the biggest turnover to date. I design light-hearted, inclusive global events for the public and for corporations. But that year, the numbers basically spoke to me – all that effort, all the blood sweat and tears - was not being rewarded in the way that I wanted it to be. I was working hard, doing long hours at my laptop to produce the events and then performing at them. I realised I was sacrificing a lot for my career; my self-care, my sleep, I often allowed anxiety to creep in. Event planning is one of the most stressful industries you can work in. I was running off the adrenaline but I realised I was living life with constant low-level discomfort and stress. It was then I decided to take a six-month sabbatical. 

I learnt to declutter. When I started my business, I was like ‘oh, sleep isn't important’ and I adopted the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. I had worked for major corporations and start-ups in Connecticut and New York before moving to London where the office culture was long hours and putting your personal life at the bottom of your priority list. I automatically went into that overworking mode when I set up my company because I associated it with success. I was so wrong. During my sabbatical I learned that I didn't have to respond to emails straight away, that I didn't have to do all the work that I was doing. I decluttered about 50 percent of tasks that weren't actually benefiting my business but were causing me stress. Those six months changed so many of my behaviours around self-care. Your career is important, but your peacefulness and management of stress and availability to spend time with your loved ones is way more important. There was a surprising side-effect of getting off my stressy hamster wheel and putting my mental health, physical health, and my loved ones first – my profits more than doubled. 

Stress is a fact of life. It’s part of our human experience. Once I accepted that stress is going to be around, I took steps to manage how I react to it when it shows itself. There are some things that stress people out universally – a heavy workload, sitting in traffic, health issues – but everyone will experience their own unique ones that create their own flavour of stress. For me, I hate being late; it makes me sweaty, it gives me heart palpitations, I get anxious. So making sure I'm organised enough to leave early, this helps alleviate any stress around my schedule. 

I have certain non-negotiables like my morning routine. I used to wake up, hit the coffee and head straight to my emails. Now, I wake up and I drink a pint of water. I meditate for at least 20 minutes every day without fail. It's like brushing my teeth – if I don't meditate, it doesn't feel right, I'm frazzled and scattered. And then I journal. I do a brain dump of how I'm feeling, what's in store for me that day, what happened the day before, my goals. I feel like everyone should journal because it's like a free mini therapy session. I’ll have a protein smoothie to set me up for the day. And then I exercise. There's no replacement for exercise. If you're experiencing stress and you don't exercise, it's a losing battle. 

Managing stress is about organisation and automation. It’s about taking away some of the decision-making aspects of your day. I get such decision fatigue when I'm trying to think of what I'm going to eat, so I’ll have the same breakfast every day because who wants to think about that every morning?! If you hate grocery shopping, plan your meals and order your groceries online. It’s about removing those potential stressors from your day. 

Be creative with how you spend your time. Thinking about your overall life goals and how you really want to live your life can help reduce stress. Too often we're not doing the things that really light us up and make us happy. I time-block my day by starting with my non-negotiables; I know that my morning routine is going to take an hour and a half, and that no matter what the day throws at me, I’m starting my day with a foundation that makes me feel centred and grounded.

I’ve even had the headspace to write a book. The old Jess was way too busy; performing frequently and travelling a lot, and basically bogged down with all the tasks that I thought I had to do. Learning to manage that has given me the breathing space to think creatively and write my book, List Yourself Happy. It's about using the art of organisation and planning for improved happiness through 100 list-making exercises. The book helps you extract your thoughts and values of how you want to live your life and get them down on paper, and then guides you to set easily achievable tasks, encouraging you to take action on the things that really make you happy, reduce stress or improve your health and sense of well-being. List making and journaling has helped me tremendously in managing my stress, so I hope sharing my methods will help people discover that, too.

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