Stress is a major issue these days; it does affect everyone, no matter who they are or what they do. Stress can be positive and I know personally there have been times where I have benefitted from being in a stressful situation. Intentionally putting myself into uncomfortable and challenging situations have grown my abilities and confidence enormously. That said, I am also painfully aware as someone who has been working in a pressured environment for seeral years now, that while we do need some stress to get us up and motivated to work our hardest, too much stress can be catastrophic if not dealt with.
Here then are my tips for dealing with stress:
- First and foremost, listen to your body and pay attention to what it is telling you. If you are feeling uptight, if your shoulders are around your ears or you’re probably due a break!
- Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or so where you specifically note down when you are feeling stressed. Has this been brought on by a particular situation? Once you identify what causes stress in your life and what response this elicits, you can look at ways of mitigating both your exposure and your reaction.
- Learn ways to deal with stress before it becomes an issue. The most simple of these is just to breathe mindfully. When we’re stressed usually the first thing to go is our breathing, and if we can slow this down and take a few deep, mindful breaths we can hope to get ourselves back on track.
- Learn the signs of stress – both in yourself and in others. You might find that when you are stressed you wake in the middle of the night; for others their stress may show as a lack of appetite, or a craving for fatty foods. Here are some other common signs of stress:
- Muscular tension
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep difficulties
- Stomach problems eg diarrhoea or constipation
- Dermatological issues
For me, I knew I was getting too stressed when I began accidentally winking at people in meetings – my eyelid would twitch! It was terribly embarrassing, but it also reminded me to take a break.
- Last week I met with a company called Neck Saviour. This gentleman has developed a product because as a physio he has seen first hand the continual damage we do to ourselves by being on the phone and on laptops so often and for so long.
- Establish boundaries. Whether you are running a business or an employee, boundaries are so important. If you don’t set a boundary regarding when you will be available, people will expect to be able to contact you at any time of the day or night – and that will be your own fault, for not telling them any different. Of course, the most important part of setting a boundary is sticking to it and (other than in extreme circumstances) not taking calls/answering emails/agreeing to meetings outside of the times you have said you will be available. I set alarms to remind me to take breaks, or about a critical deadline I need to meet. I use time as my friend and technology as a mate to help me to squeeze all the positivity I can out of each day.
- Take time out to recharge. I don’t mean just a two-week holiady once a year, but on a regular basis throughout the year. Turn off your tech at weekends and tell your friends and family to contact you another way.
- If you’re in a stressful situation such as a meeting where tensions are running high, sometimes the best thing to do is to call a time-out. Even just a fifteen minute break for everyone to go away and calm down can make a big difference. In negotiating tactics they refer to this as going to the balcony. I once went to the toilet to make one of the most difficult business decisions of my life. Best break ever.
- Learn how to relax. We often think that “relaxing” is sitting on the sofa, watching TV – or perhaps being on your phone, but on social media rather than doign work. Neither of these will actually relax you though! To truly relax you need to give your brain a rest and do something not involving screens of any kind.
- Take a deep breath and reset. Part of my reason for setting up Scentered was the ritual involved: Stop – Inhale – Reset. Often we don’t have time to take a proper time-out from a situation, but this quick ritual of breathing in aromatherapy scents can really help to reset out bodies and minds and allow us to come back to a situation feeling a little more focused and less frazzled. Certaily there are times in life where you have to simply think before responding sharply, allowing yourself that extra moment before adding fuel to the fire. Learn tactics that keep you from always having to have the last word.
- If you have a supervisor or manager at work, speak to them about your stress levels. And keep on asking for help, until you feel you are being heard. That said, you do also need to allow others to help and intervene when help is offered. There is no point at all in complaining about your stress levels, but then being a martyr to the cause when colleagues offer to take work from you. There is nothing better than working in a great culture where you know you can ask for help and receive it.
- Have a life outside of work! It can be all too easy, especially if you are running your own business or part of a small start-up, to find yourself living and breathing work. I cannot stress enough the importance of having conversations about anything other than work from time to time. Just a coffee and a catch-up with a friend every week or so can make a big difference. Look for ways to stay connected with friends and family even when you are busy at work. The value of natural conversation and having a support network should never be underestimated. Mad as it might seem, passing pleasantries in the places you frequent such as a coffee shop or saying hit to the cleaners in the office can all add much-needed humanity to long, tiring days. Plant a smile on your face and engage.
- If things get really bad, seek some support – but here what I mean is not drugs, so much as therapy. Whilst medication does have its place, we as humans need to learn ways to either deal with or remove stress long term if we are to survive.
If you know of a clever way of alleviating stress that I have not mentioned here, do get in touch on social media and let me know. I am always looking for new ways of doing things.