Let’s face it. There will always be stress. But stress isn’t all bad. Our stress response has evolved from the need to be up to the task at hand (whether the task is surviving a run-in with a sabre-toothed tiger thousands of years ago or meeting a looming deadline next Monday). But too much stress over too long a period of time can have negative consequences on our physical and emotional well-being. We need to manage our stress down to appropriate levels so we can use it for its intended purpose.
With that in mind, here are my top ten stress management techniques:
1. Ask for help.
We all get overwhelmed from time to time. If you’re having difficulty getting a handle on things, talk to someone. Family and friends may have a pearl of wisdom or two to share, or maybe just an ear to listen. If you feel like your stress is starting to affect your health, a visit to your GP may be in order.
2. Identify the causes of your stress.
Take a step back and look at what’s causing your stress. List your stressors out in order of biggest effect to smallest. Identify the top one, and take it on.
3. Practice good time management.
Organise a ‘to do’ list that prioritises your tasks. Tackle the ones that provide the most value first. Spend a few minutes each evening going over your list and determining your tasks for tomorrow. In the morning, go over the list and get started. Break tasks up into smaller chunks and take them on one at a time. Don’t multi-task. Doing one thing at a time is much more efficient and gets better results. Set time limits, and stick to them. Finish one thing, then move onto the next. Nothing combats stress like checking pressing things off your list.
Sometimes there is just plain too much to do. Not surprisingly, this will increase your level of stress. This is where effective delegation comes in. When done properly, it will reduce your stress levels and not add stress to the person being delegated to. First, make sure to choose a person who is capable of completing the task. Then make sure they have the resources they need to do it successfully. And remember that clear communication throughout the entire process will make sure that both you and the person being delegated to understand, and are comfortable with, the desired result.
5. Take time out and get some rest.
When you’re stressed, you’re like a battery running short on charge. Finding time to recharge will help you manage stress (and everything else) more effectively by maintaining a healthy balance. Make it a point each day to step away from work to do something that rejuvenates you. Take a walk, have a cup of tea, meditate. You’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks of the day.
6. Get good sleep.
Stress can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep at night, but good sleep is just what you need during stressful times. Make your sleep space a soothing, tranquil environment. Practice winding down for a little while before heading to bed. If something is weighing on your mind, write it down for tomorrow. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, don’t toss and turn. Get out of bed and do something relaxing, like say reading a book, until you feel ready to drift off. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. These are just a few techniques for encouraging good sleep. Find some that work for you because good, restful sleep is an extremely effective stress management tool.
7. Get some exercise.
This works to manage stress on many levels. It gives a much needed break from the stressors of the day. It improves your sleep (as long as you don’t try to do it just before bed). It improves your overall health (obviously). It helps you feel better about yourself by eliminating the guilt you get from not exercising. And the act of exercising itself actually releases mood elevating chemicals (endorphins) in your brain, making you just plain feel better.
8. Keep a journal.
This is a great way to get a handle on what’s causing your stress, and it helps you sort out ideas for how to manage it.
9. Diary in worry time.
Worry can be useful when used appropriately. It lets you know that there is an issue that may need attention. But if you let it get out of control, it can add considerably to your stress levels. Try this therapeutic tool to keep worry in its place. Schedule some time, say half an hour a day, to worry. At this time, get a pen and paper, and get to worrying – constructively. Write down what’s on your mind and why it’s bothering you. What are the potential consequences that you fear? Ask yourself if this fear is rational. If it is, identify potential solutions and ways to put them into action. At the end of the session, put everything away and move onto other things. If you find yourself worrying throughout the day, jot down the issue, remind yourself of your next scheduled worry appointment, and tell yourself that you’ll worry about it then. Make it a habit, and you’ll turn your worry back into the useful tool it was meant to be.
10. Watch your alcohol intake.
Many of us use alcohol as a first line of defense against stress. While it may take the edge off of a difficult day in the short term, it comes at a cost. Alcohol, being a depressant, can lead to relaxation initially, but it also leads to poor sleep quality during the night. So instead of feeling recharged the next day, you’re tired and dragging. Add that to the longer term damage that too much alcohol can cause your body, not to mention the potential consequences of your actions while under the influence, and you’ll see that alcohol really isn’t such a great stress management tool after all. If you drink more than you should, take steps to decrease your drinking from a daily to an occasional indulgence.
Where there is life, there is stress. This is by design. The trick is to not let it get the better of you. There are countless ways to manage your stress. These are just a few. Put them into practice, some or all, and you’ll find you’re better able to cope with all that comes your way. And don’t forget to make time for fun. Laughter, playfulness, downright silliness, and not taking yourself or life too seriously are all vital ingredients in effectively managing your stress.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Dave Algeo, the Stress(ed) Guru. I am all about making stress manageable and improving performance and wellbeing.
Through learning, humour and interaction, the message is loud and clear….
‘Stress can be managed to improve motivation, health and vitality leading to greater personal and professional success and life satisfaction.’
With a policing background spanning 18 years, over 13 of which as an operational Sergeant, I have witnessed, experienced and worked with stress in its many forms. From the traumatic to the trying, i know the mechanics of stress and the impact it can have on people and performance.
Whilst stress can be perceived as a negative force, it can be managed effectively using proven techniques and an individual approach.
I have delivered stress programs to a range of organisations including, Northumberland County Council and Durham University.
Check out my website: http://www.stressedguru.com