How to manage your stress better
Updated: May 15, 2020
Most of us are familiar with what happens when we continue burning the candle from both ends. You can cope with it for a while, but eventually, it burns out. Work related stress is one of the most common types of stress in today's society. Tight deadlines, unmanageable deadlines, demanding bosses, relationships with co-workers, days filled with meetings, and busy traveling schedules are just a few examples of stressors at the workplace. Women also tend to take on more stress. According to the APA Stress in an America 2016 survey, on a scale of one to 10, women described their stress levels as 5.1, compared to 4.4 among men.
The key is to recognize the symptoms of stress before it’s too late. Below are some of the most common symptoms of stress:
Difficulties sleeping and bad quality sleep
Weight gain or weight loss
Difficulty with concentrating
Obsessive or compulsive behaviours
But what can one do when feeling stressed, overwhelmed or exhausted by work related stress? Below are different techniques you can try to ease stress levels:
1. Recognize the cause of your stress: When feeling overly stressed and exhausted, it may seem that everything is going wrong. Be specific and pinpoint the main causes of stress. This will help gain clarity on where to start.
2. Prioritize: It may seem overwhelming with tasks and projects feeling equally important, but it is essential to prioritize work. If you are not able to do this on your own, ask your boss for help in order to create realistic goals around priority tasks.
3. Time management: Organize your calendar and tasks and set realistic timelines for each project. Block your calendar for working time to avoid days getting filled with meetings. If possible, schedule a regular time to work from home in order to create a quiet and more productive environment.
4. Communicate clearly: Communicate clearly and constructively with your boss and ask for support. His or her role is to support and prioritize your workload.
5. Ask for support from your colleagues: Communicate with your trusted colleagues about your situation. I have never heard of anyone declining to support a colleague asking for help in a desperate situation. It is a sign of courage to ask for help.
6. Take your lunch and coffee breaks: Skipping lunch and coffee breaks to focus on your tasks will only increase stress levels. Breaks are necessary for a clear mind, so take that short walk outside and have lunch away from your desk.
7. Getting home on time: staying overtime every day to catch up with work will not allow for any type of work/life balance and will only promote fatigue and burnout.
8. Use your holidays: The pressures at work may make holidays seem like an
impossibility. However, on the contrary, a long weekend may be just what you need
to clear your mind and get distance from your work. Even a long weekend will allow you to return to work with a fresh mind and less stress.
There are also several other techniques to manage and ease your stress outside of work:
Don’t bring your work home: Allow for quality time at home by not making a habit of working every evening.
Physical activity: When feeling overly stressed, extensive exercise may not be the right choice for the situation and can cause your body to get even more tired. Choose activities that are calming, for example a long walk in a park or a yoga. Restorative activities help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and it signals your body and mind to calm down.
Nutritious diet: When feeling stressed, we tend to crave more palatable foods that are high in calorie, high in fat and also high in sugar. This type of food release dopamine (the feel good hormone) in our body. For a moment this may seem like a good choice, however, eating palatable foods will result in weight gain and poor nutrition. A nutritious diet of whole foods filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, vitamins and minerals will help maintain your immune system and improve body function.
Prioritize sleep: Stress affects our sleep negatively and it is essential that we prioritize sleep over working late in the evening. An extra hour in bed (even not sleeping) will help your body rest and cope the next day.
Minimize caffeine consumption: We crave caffeine when feeling tired and needing an extra boost. Excess consumption of caffeine can interfere with the quality of sleep at night. If possible, move from caffeine to tea and fresh juices filled with vitamins and minerals.
Mindfulness and breathing exercises: Meditation and breathing exercises help with stress by calming your mind and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. When your mind is overly busy and you feel stressed, it may be difficult to focus. In this case, guided meditation is a good tool to alleviate an overly active and stressed mind. Even a few minutes a day will help.
Prioritize selfcare: When feeling overwhelmed, selfcare is often the first thing to suffer. However, taking care of yourself is one of the most important things to do during stress and exhaustion. A one hour massage or any other activity that make you feel good can work miracles on helping you feel better.
Learning to manage and ease the stress in our body will significantly improve well-being and quality of life. Most of us are familiar with the techniques to manage and ease stress, but do we pursue them actively? Many of the techniques require patience and practice, so learn to prioritize these techniques into your daily schedule, and practice during the times when you don't feel overwhelmed or run down by heavy stress.