10 tips for managing stress
Personal development is essential to manage stress. However, it is clear from statistics on stress and mental well-being, that the majority of you may be fearful of taking action or simply don’t know what you can do to help yourselves manage stress and therefore better your own development. Perhaps you have yet to identify that what you are experiencing is stress.
How often have you said to yourself that you feel stressed? Or overwhelmed? Worse still, close to burning out? Dare I say it that people seemingly spend more time choosing which type of coffee to have to keep them going than actually address stress management.
I, myself suffered stress to quite some degree about 11 years ago after a traumatic experience at a hospital. I was not offered any counselling or support. Growing up with brothers who I often (personally) felt I was competing against for equality, I was already quite resilient. So I thought.
What I learnt, through my own investigation, research and personal development actions were that I could improve my resiliency. I could work on controlling my experience of life or work and people. I could be in charge of how I wanted my life, my health, my prosperity, my work to look like. Now, for more than 10 years, I have lived a life that is fuller and happier and more resilient than ever. What is most fascinating, and humbling, for me is when people I meet say "I want what you have."
I manage stress with a variety of tools and techniques. I place them all in my mental toolkit, ready to be picked out from when I feel it necessary. I didn't just come across them - I studied, I practised different tools, went on courses, I read every day, I treated my wellness as a priority (and still do).
For me, personal development is an everyday responsibility and a life long journey.
Statistics and stress studies
One in four adults (at least) suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their life. This means it could be you.
In the workplace, over 80% of leaders or owners feel they have to curb their emotions with over 60% saying they are stressed. That is a lot of people. For those in employment, the figures are also staggering. For example, two-thirds of women in work say they regularly do not have a good night's sleep with mothers likely to be up to 40% more stressed than others.
Fiona Cowood reported that a study from Essex University studying more than 6,000 women found that chronic stress levels among those working full-time with one child are 18% higher than among child-free working women and 40% among women with two children.
What about men? Edward Hallowell MD says that "I think women and men are equally stressed." Fascinating. He goes on, "Men just deal with stress differently." Furthermore, Forth (the well-being company) reported that work is the main reason of stress for men.
If you know of young adults aged 18-24, Forth goes on to report that this age group is the most stressed.
More of you are talking openly about it or seeking help and many employers are now paying heed to how well-being impacts performance. In your life, you want to be maximising this one-life experience and there are things you can do to help your own personal development to manage stress and your overall well-being.
Mental illness is still a taboo
There still appears to be some taboo about mental health with many people preferring not to talk about it or admit to it in surveys. This affects the data that organisations or the government can collect and yet the entire population can be affected by it. Without a doubt, life and work can become very hectic, demanding, tiresome and worse.
Some of you who can relate to this – or know someone who could have taken the step of seeing a GP and receiving relevant support or treatment. Self-management is also an option for those with mild depression, stress and anxiety. By this, I mean learning more about stress, how it affects you and how you 'manage' it at present. Some turn (unhelpfully) to alcohol, others to food, some to excess medication. More beneficially, some turn to exercise or talking to friends whilst others still don’t accept they are overly stressed. They do nothing but, inevitably, those around them can feel the stress they project.
Some stress, as you may know, is helpful. For example, reasonable stress before an exam may encourage a commitment to revision or a work deadline may be an attractive driver for you. In my experience, if you are willing to learn some of the tools that can to manage stress you can perform more effectively at work and in life - and be more focussed.
Stress is different for everyone
Now, I’d like to add that stress is subjective – what is stressful for one person is not necessarily stressful for another. Take, for example, Jane who has a deadline to complete the drafting of an important agreement with a new client and her 3-year-old child is sick at home with a nanny who has to travel home to see her elderly parent. Here, there are several events that may 'stress her out.' Is it a given that she will be stressed or does it depend on other things such as her mindset, her team, her client’s empathy, her resilience and so on?
We all take on stress differently and we may feel more in control of some stress than other stress. A fire in a shopping centre where you are stuck is less in your control and could cause immense stress – what is in your control in this scenario is how you consider (think about) getting away safely.
Understanding your stress
Understanding what stress is, your triggers for it, your resultant behaviours together with management tools, often provide great support to developing resilience. Take 20 minutes today to consider these, they could help you to take control and manage your next stressful situation more effectively. Symptoms may include more frequent headaches, loss of focus and concentration, lack of appetite, aches, disinterest, low motivation and confidence, anger, insomnia, excessive desire to sleep, withdrawal from usual activities, confusion, unhealthy eating – the list can go on.
Greater awareness gives you greater control. Be smart – if a voice inside you suggests seeing your GP, go. What have you got to lose?
Ten tips for resilience
Here are 10 simple things you can try to help with stress and keeping your mindset more positive.
Smiling activates neural signals that lead to greater happiness.
Consciously pause with awareness. It seems hard but, pause. Try. Notice your breathing as it is, then slowly move to three deep breaths in and out, then four in and four out.
Take 20 minutes, uninterrupted in personal space, to write down your strengths and skills. Accept them truly, acknowledge them, revel in them. No buts; know your triumphs from or beyond the classroom.
Accept that not everything goes the way we want it to all of the time, nor do we have all the skills we may desire right this moment. Perhaps you’re frustrated with a pupil or workload. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen or what can I do to develop. Then, act.
Where does stress affect your body? Notice where the tightness, anxiety or tension is. Take a moment to notice and, if possible, place a hand on the spot you feel it the most. Remain in this position, eyes closed if possible, focused, for up to 10 seconds or more. (If you don’t want anyone to notice, do it sat down at your desk, your gaze simply lowered.)
Ensure you have enough quality sleep despite the marking and planning. Where does exhaustion leave you? Review your routine and screen time before bedtime. Do something relaxing and enjoyable even for five minutes before bed. Your phone may have a bedtime app reminder.
Exercise or walk, especially outdoors, perhaps five minutes with a peer at lunchtime or more at the weekend. Getting close to nature, in the open, can have uplifting effects on the mood.
There is always something that went well in a day, or something/someone that made you smile (Perhaps you made someone else smile?) – writing these positives can support mental well-being and perspective.
9. Eat/drink well
Understand which foods potentially add to stress or tiredness for you and which boost your energy and mindset. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Substitute at least one cup of coffee/tea for water too. Dehydration affects clarity, mood, behaviour and energy levels.
Connect with others – friends, family, peers. Talk or share activities where you can be yourself and have fun or just offload. Savour the joy. No buts.
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