Outsmarting stress

Everyone has a unique response to stress and what bothers you may not have any impact on others. You can manage your responses to stress with methods such as regular exercise, reducing your intake of stimulants and meditating - but your personal view of stress will also make a huge difference to how much effect it has on you in the first place.

Here are a few golden rules for tackling stress at source:

Avoid the stress

  • Learning how to say "no" is one of the most useful things you can do if you're constantly feeling overburdened - whether in your personal or professional life.
  • Avoiding people who create stress for you is equally important. Limit the amount of time you spend with such people or don't see them at all.
  • Taking control of what you see and do will also help. If driving in traffic makes you tense then use public transport where you can or take a longer, quieter route.
  • Avoid stress-inducing topics where possible. If you become upset when discussing politics for example then try not to get drawn into heated debates.
  • Reduce your obligations if you feel overloaded. Work out what tasks are essential and what can wait.
  • Drop anything that isn't really necessary to the bottom of your to-do list or eliminate it entirely. Honestly consider the consequences of taking these tasks off your list - do they really matter?

Alter the stress

  • Expressing your feelings will free you from pent-up resentment or hurt. If something or someone is upsetting you, rather than bottling things up, try to communicate how you're feeling in an open and respectful way.
  • When negotiating a change in someone else's behaviour, be prepared to compromise if you are asked to do the same - it works both ways… and maybe they have a point.
  • Learning to be more assertive and dealing with problems instead of dodging them will make you feel more in control of your life.
  • Practising good time management can certainly reduce stress. Try planning ahead and staying calm and focused to keep time-related stress to a minimum.

Adapt to the stress

  • Changing your perspective on problems can make a tremendous difference to your stress levels. Look at the big picture and ask yourself how important your problem will be in the long run. If you know it really won't matter that much, then focus your time and positive energy elsewhere.
  • Reconsider your standards if you find you're always demanding perfection and go a little easier on yourself - and others.
  • Focus on the positive aspects in your life, including your own attributes and gifts. This is a simple strategy that can help you to keep things in perspective and feel good about yourself.

Accept the stress

  • Recognise when something is beyond your control - particularly how other people behave.
  • Actively look for the best side of a situation and try to look at challenges as opportunities for personal growth. Think "what's good about this, what can I get out of it?" - you may well be surprised.
  • Share your feelings and consider counselling if you don't want to talk to a trusted friend. Sharing what you're going through can help.
  • Learn to forgive yourself and others - we all make mistakes and letting go of anger and resentment is cathartic.

Understand your stresses

Each time you feel stressed write about it in a daily log. You should soon begin to see common patterns. Write down:

  • The cause of your stress (make a guess if you're unsure)
  • How it made you feel - both physically and emotionally
  • How you responded
  • What action you took to make yourself feel better.

Keeping a stress diary is a great way of understanding and managing your relationship with the stresses in your life.


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