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The stress-relieving benefits of a “big project”

Have you got one?

Did you know that, collectively, we’re more stressed now than we were 30 years ago? 

The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as “a state of worry or tension caused by a difficult situation.” 

One of the reasons for increased collective stress levels, according to experts at the foundation, is the increase in the number of hours we all work. 

Fifty years ago, this figure was around 37 hours per week. 

But now, more than 30% of the UK population works over 45 hours a week. 

Most forms of work are stressful in some way, and so it makes sense that more hours at the grindstone leads to more stress. 

The question then is, how do we reduce our stress levels? 

The answer will be different for everyone. 

However, in preparing myself to row from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in December 2025, I’ve learned something about stress management that might seem counterintuitive. 

And it’s this: 

Having a big and demanding goal (that you're excited about), even if stressful in itself at times, can have the effect of reducing stress in other aspects of your life.

It sounds odd, but I’ve found that this one form of stress (preparing to row an ocean) has actually counteracted another form of stress (e.g. my work stress). 

Work stress for a financial adviser like me can look like:

- a client gets declined for life insurance cover 

- the bank withdraws a mortgage offer 

- Liz Truss announces her new vision for Britain and the markets collapse! 

But having this new, big and complex goal in my life – of rowing a boat solo across the Atlantic – has given my mind something to focus on away from work. 

One of the best things that’s happened since I started sharing my Atlantic Ocean voyage preparations with the public is that readers from all over have contacted me to share their “big project.”

Of all the big projects I’ve read about thus far, there seems to be a common thread in that many of them involve some degree of physicality.

Cycling features frequently in the emails I’ve received and many folks have big rides planned for the summer. 

The trend suggests to me that there needs to be some form of physicality to the "big project" to gain the stress-relieving benefits. 

I wonder whether organising your best friend’s wedding, whilst definitely mind-consuming, would elicit the same positive effects as training for and completing your first 10k run?

Perhaps not for me, but for some, it could be the perfect stress-relieving “big project.” 

As I write this, I’m about to head out to train for a few hours near Padstow, Cornwall. 

Looking at my weather app, that 19km south-south-westerly crosswind looks stressful enough to keep me distracted from any other worries I might’ve had today!

Until next time.



P.S. If you've got a big idea you want to finance – or, you're simply ready to take the next step on your personal wealth journey, here's how I can help.

The best way to learn how to get from where you are to where you want to be when it comes to your lifestyle and your finances is to request a 1-to-1 Wealth Strategy Session.

During this session, we'll look at things like lifestyle planning, pension savings, investment allocation, risk & insurance, when you can retire, and with how much, and anything else that may be on your mind.

To request your free session, click here and fill out the form.

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