Trust me, I know the feeling… Whether it’s a sense of overwhelming workload, responsibility or problems, or a combination of all, most of us have had more than enough stress in our lives. Stress has become an issue in our society that affects many people – women, men and even children.
While the feeling of stress was originally designed by nature as a security measure to protect us from hungry tigers and angry mammoths, our instinct may associate a long to-do list or a challenging presentation as equally life threatening. With it isn’t, most of the time at least! Neither fight nor flight needed, but still we feel the stress.
So what helps to kill the stress?
Improve efficiency. If your stress is caused by having to do too many things in too less time, the first thing you should do is to sense-check your efficiency. Is there any way you can plan your day or your week better? Clearly carve out time for the activities that are most important to you, write them down on a schedule. Speaking of importance: while you’re working on your schedule, clearly prioritise your tasks. And yes, prioritisation also means to be okay with low priority points being delayed or to even fall off the to-do-list all together. Make your plan realistic and include
breaks and self-care activities. Once you have your plan set, stick to it, concentrate and don’t tolerate procrastination.
Reflect. Sometimes stress isn’t (only) about too much to do – it’s for example about the responsibility we carry on our shoulders, that can get too heavy at times… Or constantly living up to other people’s expectations… Or not trusting anyone to do as good a job as ourselves and becoming sheer control freaks. In this case, take some time-out to sit with yourself, reflect, maybe even journal. Also mediation and yoga help to distance oneself from the muddle of emotions and thought spirals we tend to get lost in. The waves need to calm down so we can see through the water to the bottom of the sea. What is the true cause for your feeling of stress? What can you do to improve and resolution it? What help do you need?
Take control. Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and it is our choice how we respond. In many cases, we create stress for ourselves simply because of bad decision making. Saying yes to yet another commitment, asking for help too late or not at all, getting involved in other peoples’ business, and so on and so forth. Be aware of the choices you are making and make sure they tie in with your priorities. If you’re tired, take a break and go for a walk on fresh air. If you know you will miss your deadline by taking that extra task your manager put you on the table, flag your concerns and decline. If your priority #1 is family, don’t do those overtime hours. And yes, it IS your choice!
Care for yourself. In times of stress, we need activities that help us re-charge our energy. Some of us find joy and relaxation in sports, others in painting, others in a hot bath. (Xtina finds it in her morning coffee.) Try out what works for you and include it in your daily schedule.
By the way, stress can be positive, too! Think about the excitement before going to a party you’re really looking forward to, or finally taking on the challenge that you’ve been waiting for?