There are many ways to deal with chronic stress.
In this post, I'm going to take a look at one tactic you might not have considered — outsourcing tasks.
I know it sounds like something only organisations or rich people do.
But I want to show you that you might be able to use a suprisingly wide range of affordable services that just might help take away some of the pain and help you stay sane.
Before I do — a quick look at why stress is so bad for you.
Not interested in information about the influence stress has on your brain? Jump straight to the outsourcing action by clicking here.
Chronic Stress — Why It's Such A Problem
If you’re being chased by a polar bear across the tundra, your body injects energy into your muscles from storage sites around your body. Hormones will increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, to ensure the energy is pumped to your muscles more quickly.
Your body is finely tuned to deal with these do or die situations.
The trouble is, many of us live our lives in a perpetual cloud of sustained or chronic stress. When this happens, the same hormonal responses which will potentially save your life when chased by a polar bear, can lead to serious health problems. These include:
Unfortunately, your behaviour is also likely to change when you are chronically stressed. This is because a tiny part of your brain, the amygdala, runs riot when under stress.
The amygdala is part of our primitive brain and is located in the limbic area.
It's what provides us with our innate fear of snakes and spiders. It gets its inputs from three main sources:
- The sensory world (think how the soundtrack to Jaws makes you feel)
- It is triggered by pain (remember lashing out at someone who unexpectedly pinched you?)
- Disgust of all kinds (think how if you taste something rancid you spit it out, gag, feel sick and twist your face into a grimace). This disgust response also applies to things which you regard as morally disgusting — think how whole races have been stigmatised in this way in ethnic cleansing events.
Unfortunately, your amygdala causes a heap of problems when you're chronically stressed.
Robert M. Sapolsky
" The amygdala becomes overactive and gets hard-wired to habitual behaviours. This means you are more prone to learn to fear and it’s harder to unlearn it."
Problems Caused By A Chronically Stressed Amygdala
- You process emotionally important information more quickly and automatically, but less accurately.
- Frontal function - working memory, impulse control, executive decision making, risk assessment and task shifting is impaired.
- The frontal cortex has less control of the amygdala. You become less empathetic and prosocial.
All in all, you want to avoid being chronically stressed and there are many proven actions you can take to dial down your level of stress.
I've written before about stress and have suggested some realistic ways stress can be alleviated at work.
But there's one route to reducing stress that many people overlook — including me.
I only recently discovered how easy it is to begin outsourcing tasks — tasks I had assumed I'd always have to do.
Let's take a look at how easy it is to start outsourcing tasks.
Outsourcing Tasks — Take Away Pain, Help You Stay Sane
Pressure to complete tasks and meet deadlines is one of the main causes of stress.
Ironically, one of the ways that stress affects you is that when you’re under the cosh, and your hormones are surging through your body, your brain does the equivalent of putting its head down and barrels along without looking up.
Neuroscientists call this being 'perseravative' — tunnel vision if you prefer. Being in this state means you continue to do the same thing, faster and faster, convinced that it will surely work.
What’s happening in such stressful situations is that your frontal cortex — the part of your brain which would normally notices what’s going on and pulls you out of the tailspin — is unable to connect efficiently to another part of your brain, the hippocampus. The hypocampus area is responsible for integrating new information that would normally prompt a new strategy.
So, if you’re feeling stressed on a regular basis, it's time to take action.
Stop and Step Back
If one of the causes of your stress is too much to do and not enough time to do it — outsourcing tasks could be the answer.
Sit yourself down and then take a look at the list below — outsourcing tasks can be as simple as making a few clicks in your browser.
Did you know any of these services existed?
Some of them are going to be more than you can afford — although you might justify the expense if it was for a one-off kind of activity. Many of them are very cheap though— Fiverr does what it says on the tin— it generally starts at only $5, although you can pay more.
Although you might find even $5 too much to pay for a job you certainly could do yourself, it doesn't cost anything to go to the site and poke around. You can checkout everything that's available and then make a decision.
I think it boils down to how much value you put on your own time. That's something only you can do.
For me, getting over the first hurdle — opening the door to the possibility that I could use a small amount of the money I earn each month to leverage additional time for myself — was the most important step.
Take a long look at the things which you are currently battling with.
Are any of these daily activities candidates for outsourcing?
By freeing yourself up from some of the drudgeries of repetitive tasks which don’t require your personal touch, you are taking a big step towards releasing yourself from chronic stress.
I regularly use Fiverr myself for all sorts of tasks that take up time I don’t have. Fiver taps you into a massive database of people who will happily take on a multitude of tasks that you might not want to, or are not very good at.
I also highly recommend 24task. You can get 20 hours support a month for $180.
Why is it that calling Utility companies is usally such a pain?
While you're waiting, listening to the dreadful canned music and a periodic message telling you how important your call is, you could be doing any number of more important tasks.
These days I save calls like this up, so I've got a batch of them. Then I put the work out onto Fiverr.
What a relief.
If you've never thought like this, maybe you're wondering what kind of tasks you might outsource?
Habliss provide this list of ways you can use a virtual assistant. This is a good checklist which might prompt some lines of inquiry for you.
Outsourcing tasks doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can just take one small but time consuming task you do regularly and start there.
Dedicated Assistant – sample tasks:
- Remote Receptionist
- Live Answering Service
- PowerPoint Presentations
- Administrative Assistant
- Craigslist Ad Posting
- Internet Research Services
- Data Analysis/ Entry/ Management
- Spreadsheet Management
- Online Ad Posting
- Email Management
- Calendar Management
- Live IM Chat Support
- Voice/ Video Transcription
- Personal Tasks
- Ordering products/ Food delivery
- Appointment Setting
- Reminder Alerts (meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
- Making reservations send out cards for special occasions
- Ordering flowers, Sending Gifts
- Outbound Calling
- Inbound Customer Care
- Directory submissions
- Newsletter management
Sample Personal tasks:
- Daily wakeup calls that also deliver the local weather and traffic report
- Finding a maid service, nanny or babysitter for your child
- Calling the phone or cable company to arrange repairs
- Arranging your appointment at that spa or salon
- Ordering flowers for your spouse and telling them you will be late for dinner
- Ordering flowers for your loved ones
- Reading bedtime stories to your children over the phone
- Online purchase of grocery at scheduled intervals
- Reminders for special occasions and recommending and purchasing gift for the same
- Arranging a locksmith in case of a lockout
- Get the best deal on that camera, car or cell phone
- Driving directions to the nearest Italian restaurant
- Finding information on that exotic holiday destination you have been thinking about
- Calling your spouse while you are on a flight and telling them that you miss them
- Scouring the Internet for that hard to find item and purchasing it on your behalf
- Calling your airline or travel booking agency to reschedule/cancel a booking
- Calling the rental car company to change the location of your drop-off point
- Calling your friend abroad to wish them “happy birthday” on your behalf as your personal assistant
- Calling the credit card company to report a lost card / disputed transaction
- Reservations & tickets – If you need restaurant reservations, would like to purchase tickets to events to or are planning a party and need a personal chef, our virtual assistant can take care of it for you.
- Errands – If you need someone to schedule a pick-up for your dry cleaning or laundry, make an appointment with a maid service, buy a gift, or pick even arrange a rental car, we can help.
- Information – We will also dig up information you may need. If you arrive in a strange city and need to know where the best restaurants or most reasonable hotels are, our virtual assistants will find out for you.