How would it be if you awoke every day feeling refreshed and confident about the day ahead, with enough energy and resilience in reserve to tackle whatever might be thrown your way? Yes, unexpected challenges crop up from time to time but how would it be, if in the main, you knew yourself well enough to be able to manage stress, cope well and have some time for yourself, including breaks for those important people and things in your life?
In a busy life we often focus on work, letting home, friends and outside interests take care of themselves. But often personal areas will stay quiet, gently fading into the background, not wanting to force us to choose or add to our stress. At some point the realisation hits us. Friends and family don't include us anymore. They are living their lives without us. It may take a while for us to notice, but it's not an uncommon situation.
Some stress is good for us. It keeps us on our toes, helps us think outside the box, come up with new ideas, deliver more than we thought we could. But continual stress is counter-productive and can cause many issues and ailments over time. There are a documented 360 physical symptoms of stress and you may be working your way through them all!
At first the occasional symptom may go unnoticed or be explained away. The intermittent headaches, sleepless nights, irritability, disappearing sense of humour, poor concentration can be explained away through being busy and overloaded. You may have a stressful period at work, problems at home, health-related concerns, things on your mind.
But if they continue unabated or start to escalate it may be time to address what's going on, what the root cause or trigger is to these changes in your equilibrium. Ignored, things often continue until you can't discount or brush them aside any more. The continual drips can escalate into an overflow which starts to impact and affect every area of your life.
Starting to take responsibility and own how you're feeling, the way you're living your life is an important first step to manage stress. When we acknowledge our responses, recognise that we need to take control and then start to do so we become more able to move to a better place both mentally and physically.
Here are some steps to take the stress out of stress;
Does dealing with stress mean compartmentalising it, leaving it at the door, or is it more effective to find positive ways to manage your life so that every area has balance as often as possible?
- Recognise what's going on with you. What is your inner voice saying; that you must do it all yourself or feel guilty, a failure, less successful? Do you fear being 'caught out', found to be an imposter if others step in to help? Recognise the triggers, the situations or phrases people use that influence your stress levels.
- Revise your perspective. Notice the difference in your outlook from when you're feeling happy and upbeat, or conversely battered and fed up. It's often not what happens to us but how we're feeling and responding that's the determining factor. Take control and focus on what your viable choices are. Appreciate what you have already in your life.
- Be kind to yourself by being healthy, with regular good food, water, exercise. Take time to read a book or even do nothing. Simply parking the car for a 15 minutes break after work can really benefit your mood and stress levels for when you return home.
- Manage the overwhelm by delegating, sharing and regularly communicating what's going on. Ask for help, don't expect others to be psychic. And when you bring others in to help they may thrive with the additional responsibility, seeing it as a chance to grow, improve their skills and perhaps even impress you with new ideas and better ways of doing things.
- 'No' can be most positive word in your vocabulary. Teach others to respect you, to understand what you do every day and value how much you do for them. Encourage their gratitude and appreciation.
- 'Yes' can be negative if it's become your constant default to everything that's asked of you. Do you agree out of fear, apprehension, guilt? Used positively 'yes' can move you out of your comfort zone and scare you a little every day.
- Break big tasks into bite-sized chunks so that you're the decision-maker, moving and feeling proactive.
Why not manage stress by selecting 3 of these items to action in the next 48 hours;
1. Outsource tasks that are not in your area of expertise. Hiring someone to manage your accounts, PR, advertising could be money well spent and free you to focus on your main business. Maybe hire someone to do your domestic chores, your cleaning, ironing, gardening and use that free time to do something for yourself.
2. Share with family. Your partner often wants to be there for you. Discuss what you're going through and let them be supportive. Even children can have tasks that are their responsibility, maybe setting the table or loading the dishwasher. Communicate and ask for help.
3. Ensure you have family time by sitting and eating together, even if it's just once a week. Keep two-way channels of communication open so it's not all about you. Be interested in what's going on in their lives and remember what you've been told so you can follow-up again.
4. Turn off technology at a set time in the evenings, unless there's an occasional emergency that needs your attention. Allow yourself to switch off, preferably for a couple of hours before bed. If you commit to specific time slots each day to go online you'll avoid wasting time by constantly checking. You'll have more free time and be able to invest genuine attention in your real relationships.
5. Treat sleep as important. Stress and sleep-related issues cost UK businesses £40 billion last year, or the equivalent of 200,000 days lost productivity, due to accidents, absenteeism and poor performance. Prepare to sleep well by winding down for an hour or two before bed. Avoid that heavy conversation last thing at night, plan for the next day by making a list of impending tasks, maybe have your clothes ready, the children's lunches packed.
6. Try to maintain a regular routine, a relaxing bath or shower to wash away the day's cares. If you have a busy physical job try to introduce balance with mentally challenging interests like quizzes, puzzles, interesting conversations, or mentally demanding work might be balanced by scheduling physical activity like the gym or a walk.
7. It can be fun to regularly get outside and maybe share that time with family by taking a walk, game of football, playing together.
8. Reward each stage of your journey with treats, me time and self-praise. Trying deserves recognition, even if things don't work out how you'd hoped.
9. Commit to ongoing training, learning, developing, improvement. Keep your brain active so that you're engaged and stimulated.
Stress is a fact of everyday life, but by incorporating a few basic steps you can implement effective ways to take the stress out of stress!