These stress reduction tips will help you to identify some of the key reasons you find yourself stressed – then show you how to exercise greater control over your environment.
“When people are busy and stressed they have no time to think. Making the space to think about your situation is the first step to changing it.”
Joy Taylor – Holistic Health Care Practitioner
Not all stress is negative and not all stress is avoidable. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to arrange things in your life to significantly reduce the incidence of stress. Here are some common causes of stress:
Having too much to do:
This could be happening for a variety of reasons
- you like to be seen as someone who’s always willing to help out
- you want to be needed
- you may not be good at managing your time effectively
- you want to show you can take on more responsibility
- you like the image of someone who can manage 101 tasks at the same time and still come out smiling and asking for more! (I think that’s called Superman / Superwoman!)
- you feel you’re the only person who can do it
- you allow yourself to be put-upon by others
This is all very well, but you need to recognise that even you have your limits and if you want to avoid some of the stress in your life, you’ll need to learn to stay within them. That means being able to say ‘No’ when you need to.
If you start getting close to your limits and you recognise the tell-tale symptoms of stress, irrespective of whether this is in your personal or your professional life (or the two combined) you need to be assertive and refuse to take on any more.
Sometimes the problem isn’t so much that you have too much on, it’s that you’re too disorganised with the work you do have. You need to plan ahead with a diary and a ‘to do’ list.
Look at this carefully each day and identify things you absolutely MUST do and the things you could do. Do the essential tasks first and decide towards the end of the day whether the remaining ones are really necessary. Either carry them forward to the next day or drop them completely.
If you’ve carried something forward for a whole week – chances are it can be dropped altogether! Alternatively, you may look at a different way of dealing with it e.g. asking someone else to do it.
Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. If you don’t manage your time effectively it won’t matter that you have only a few tasks to do, you’ll still end up stressed!
Controlling your environment:
Many of the things that stress you are things you can exercise varying degrees of control over – if you choose to!
Perhaps it’s other people who cause us to be stressed. If it’s a friend or acquaintance, decide to limit the amount of time you spend with them or even end the relationship entirely. If it’s a work colleague, take steps to address the issues that wind you up, don’t just ignore them.
If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, either stop bringing it up, or excuse yourself when the topic is introduced.
If traffic jams and drivers get you strung out, see if there’s a quieter (even if longer) route you can take.
If the news stresses you, don’t read newspapers or watch TV.
There are many instances where you can do something but you probably don’t bother to take action, you just keep repeating the exercise over and over again. But you don’t have to!
Express your Feelings:
It’s a very British thing not to express our feelings, but we pay the price for that. Let’s illustrate this with a fairly common scenario:
If something that someone does or says is very hurtful, you may not express that fact but instead allow the thought to fester inside. You may well start to believe that because someone said it, it has to be true, but that’s not necessarily the case. People say things in anger to purposely hurt because they think that will ease their pain; but that doesn’t make it a true statement.
The outcome for you is that both your mental and physical well-being can be affected. You may worry about whatever was said and rake through it, looking for confirmation that it’s true. (Yes, in not expressing you’re more likely to take it on board than to reject it out of hand!)
You can start to believe that you’re a ‘bad’ person – especially if you’re adding this to previous, unquestioned comments. You may start to have, among other things, headaches, stomach upsets, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.
In order to reduce your stress you need to address these situations by being more assertive. In this instance you may say something like:
“I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that so please stop”
“That may be your opinion but it’s personal and a put-down so please don’t do it” or
“I know you’re upset but please don’t take it out on me”
(See assertiveness and self-confidence)
There may be other situations where you need to assert yourself – perhaps where you’ve been unable to prevent a situation from arising.
Let’s say someone unexpectedly visits when you have lots to do, so your stress levels rise; you need to be able to tell them that it’s an inconvenient time so you’ll stop for 30 minutes for a coffee but you must get back to your tasks after that. I’m sure they’ll understand!
Or maybe you find yourself in the midst of an argument about politics, the state of the nation, religion or whatever and you feel yourself becoming stressed. Stop the discussion by saying “I don’t think we’ll ever agree on this so let’s just agree to differ” then close the conversation.
Taking action to do things differently is one of the most important and effective stress reduction tips I can give you. If you are struggling to work out exactly how you can make these changes, personal coaching can help you work this out more quickly and effectively.