We all experience stress in our everyday lives, and indeed some stress is no bad thing, helping to motivate us, heightening our thinking, aiming to keep us safe. But becoming more aware of its impact on us and finding ways to manage stress effectively is crucial to good health and wellbeing. Here are some valuable steps to help you better recognise and manage stress.
– Amber lights are like traffic lights, the warning signs that start to flash, alerting you to the need to slow down or even stop for a time. Learn to recognise your own warning signs that stress is building up and starting to negatively affect you. It may be that disturbed sleep, poor concentration, gut-related issues or changes in your appetite, sense of humour or libido give you the nudge to say you’re doing too much and are becoming stressed. You may need to take a break, pause for some fresh air, eat healthily, schedule in some fun time. Familiarise yourself with your cues that you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and use that information to better manage stress.
By adopting an adaptive approach you’ll be able to handle stressful situations in a more flexible, open-minded way. Weigh things up first rather than instantly react. Ask yourself what’s happening, what’s really going on. Is this situation triggering your ‘stuff’, might you need to deal with your personal issues first? Rarely is everything equally urgent. Learn to prioritise, delegate and communicate what you need.
– Busyness is a familiar state for many of us, trying to combine the diverse demands of home, work, family, friends. It can take just one area of life to push a little more urgently and everything comes crashing down. If there’s no way you can negotiate with additional requests it may be more appropriate to put those opportunities or invitations on hold for the time being. Learn to say ‘no’ in a firm way, delegate or share the load.
– Black and white is an extreme way to view what’s happening in your life. Most things have shades of grey, different perspectives and your perspective will be very much affected by how you’re feeling, whether you’re in a good or a bad mood, are feeling happy or sad. Keep that in mind and try to step back, so becoming more balanced whenever you find that you’re reacting harshly to a person or situation.
– How the body’s affected. When we’re feeling threatened, in danger or needing to concentrate well our body will react to support us, helping us to stay vigilant and in control. Once the situation has passed we may have ‘jelly legs’, need to visit the bathroom, have a dry mouth or find our head is spinning. We’ll often need a moment or two to calm, but that’s okay because we understand why we’re feeling like that. Learn to listen to your body and note that there are over 360 physical symptoms of stress, a new one for each day of the year!
– Breaks are a great way to manage stress, but some people are always on red-alert and are loathe to take time away from their work-station. As a consequence, they can become constantly hyper-vigilant. Notice if you favour expressions like, I’m gutted, it’s doing my head in, I’m choked, I’m sick to my stomach. If we use emotive phrases on a regular basis these can influence our health and wellbeing. Could there be a correlation between these phrases and any physical symptoms you’re experiencing, is it becoming a self-fulfilling result?
Try to take a 20 minute break every 90 minutes or so and allow your body to normalise and wind down. You may well find you return to work feeling refreshed and with clearer thinking – a positive investment of your time.
– Communicate how you’re feeling, what’s going on in your life. Rather than expecting others to be psychic keep regular conversations going, commit to times when you regularly share, discuss and maintain mutual support in your relationships.You’ll find a more ‘team’ mentality brings its own rewards.
– Commitments can change over time. Intermittently review what you typically feel obligated to do and ask yourself if the situation is still the same; could your involvement be modified or reduced? ‘Yes’ can end up becoming the most negative word you use, whilst ‘no’ can become positive by helping you reclaim some time for yourself. Bring some control back into your life and support ways to better manage stress.
– Avoid catastrophizing things that happen. Some people treat every new situation or request as a crisis, a stressful demand that needs to be attended to immediately. Change your thinking by listening carefully to what has been asked of you, maybe breaking it down into bullet points and prioritising.
Introduce your own steps that help you cope better with stress. and enjoy the opportunities that come your way.