For over a decade, I lived life on not a lot of sleep at all and working a whole lot.
I didn't have much time to complain or think about alternatives then. I drank a lot of coffee, did the best I could with eating healthy, and made do.
I started to develop patterns and beliefs about work. I needed coffee to work productively, or to think well. It was hard to focus, or get started with work, but once I got going it was okay. I had optimal times where I could work each day, usually when the office was empty and I'd had time to relax a bit. Too many times I just didn't have the energy I needed or the project was too stressful, so I'd just try to remind myself how crucial it was that I get work done and finally I'd be scared enough to force myself to code.
Health problems cropped up, but they seemed normal. I probably just had oily skin, that's why I was always breaking out. And people just get sick or get infections every now and then. Didn't seem like anything to complain about.
Then I had a few years that were particularly bad. I also didn't think much of this.
But in starting my business after these particularly bad years and being able to relax in a way I'd never been able to before, I'm learning a lot about what it means to live life happily.
Being calm is the most energizing thing, but only if you rest and eat well. And it might take time to be truly calm again.
This is something I'd always heard people say. But the fact is, I didn't see myself as able to rest properly. I saw myself as needing to work constantly.
It took me a few months to start to see this effect noticeably. But after a few months of sleeping well and eating well and eventually cutting all big sources of caffeine from my diet, I really started to notice this. And the energy felt different-- more healthy, more happy, not just about getting stuff done but about being truly happy as well.
Panic attacks are real (for those that don't have them), and were curable for me (for those who do).
It took pushing myself far to develop panic attacks-- I went for many years in stressful scenarios without them. They caught me completely off guard, and made me really wish I'd lowered my anxiety levels long before it got this bad. Getting them was a clear wake up call-- whenever I got one, I was able to easily identify a problem and search for what might've caused that. Earlier this year, I was getting several a day. Now I don't get them any more.
Humans are such associative creatures.
I like to think I control my behavior well, but the fact is my life and psychological reactions are painted with associations. And with several years of negative associations built up, I had work to do to reverse this PTSD.
I got rid of any bad association environments I didn't need to have-- in owning my own business with only one other person, there's little need to come into an office, especially not one that reminded me of bad times. For things like coding that I wanted to be able to do without stress again, I made sure I had happy, relaxed times before coding, and tried changing associations that way.
Supplements don't replace sleep and eating well, but they can help.
A note on this section-- I'm in no way a doctor or recommending these solutions for you, do your research. I'm just saying what worked for me. Also have to thank Rich for this, since he suggested all of these solutions.
I now take a multivitamin, and various vitamins it doesn't cover well, and fish oil. I also take an adrenal health supplement every day, which seems to help a lot. My anxiety got to the point in which totally normal things would strike fear into me-- so it'll likely take time to be back to normal and I accept that and try to speed it along with this supplement. Bioactive milk peptides, rhodiola, and kava kava seem to help as well and I take them in cases when I'm too stressed despite the adrenal health supplement.
Health problems might go away if you can reduce stress.
I used to break out with rashes, dry skin, infections, oily skin. I'd get sore throats or sick more often. My skin has almost completely cleared up-- which believe me, is pretty amazing-- and I haven't gotten sick yet this year.
It used to be harder to remember things, especially things that happened around stressful times. My memory has gotten much better, which in turn has improved my ability to think clearly and really analyze problems.
Really question how scared you have to be.
Looking back on things, I was in many ways illogical in my fear. I would've potentially gotten ahead more if I had stopped, taken some time off, rested, and not let people get to me so much. After all, people do mirror your behavior-- if you look scared, some use this as an opportunity to take advantage of you more. Properly taking control of the situation is not as easy when afraid or anxious. When calm, it's easier to see the bigger picture. When calm, it's easier to be empathetic and communicate well with people.
In running a business, it's risky to be anxious. There's no one telling me what to do. I create all my own tasks, am in this for the long term, and I can't be stupid about my decisions. I can easily avoid crunch scenarios-- it just takes very careful planning and communication skills. I must be calm, happy, and healthy to maintain a happy life while running this business.
In my prior work environments, talking about mental health rarely happened and almost felt taboo. We were supposed to suck it up, manage problems ourselves, love our work, push on. Well, everyone I worked with could have seriously used being open about these issues and the above advice. So I pass it on to you, and hopefully it helps someone else.