A giver's guide to stress reduction
You are the person everyone can rely on, and you like that, but you are exhausted. You worry about how you can fit in that extra work that has been given to you. You worry about how you are going to juggle family expectations over the holidays. You worry that you can’t stop worrying!
What does it look like for a giver to be stressed out, why is it such an issue for the givers of this world, and what, most importantly, can you do about it?
What do we mean by stress?
Stress is our reaction to what we perceive as too much pressure. This can come from external events such as losing a job, having an argument, or even more positive things like a wedding or moving house. It could be a one-off event that affects us, like an accident, or an ongoing situation like a dispute with a neighbour. It also comes from our perceptions and our feelings about those events.
How do you know you might be stressed?
Stress shows up in various ways in our bodies. There are physical signs such as headaches, tiredness, muscle tension, and indigestion. There are behavioural signs such as having trouble concentrating, over or under eating, constant worrying, and snapping at people. Then there’s how you feel, which could be feeling neglected, anxious, wound up, or being left with no sense of humour.
Why is it such an issue for 'givers'?
You take on so much! You love helping people and so people ask you to help. Some people will take advantage of your giving nature, too. The danger is that you end up over-giving, over-extended, and yet you don’t want to let anyone down so the pressure just keeps mounting until you either explode, implode, or burn out.
If this is sounding familiar, don’t worry. Here’s what to do about it.
Seven stress-busting tips
1. Manage expectations - this is about being clear on what you are going to do, and when and what you are not going to do, whilst being realistic with yourself and others. It’s about not over-committing yourself in the first place. It is also about your expectations of yourself. Expectations set us up for disappointment. What if you re-frame from an expectation to a plan of what you want to do and why, accepting that whilst you can do your best, you can’t control the exact outcome.
2. Stop saying 'yes' on autopilot - as a giver, you may be used to agreeing to whatever someone suggests or asks for. Develop your awareness of all the times you say 'yes'. Consider whether you wanted to say 'yes', or whether you did it out of habit. Learn to slow down or delay your responses so you can take the time to consider how you want to respond.
3. Figure out what you want and what your priorities are - whether that be in your job, or for how you spend the holidays. That way, you have a solid position to start from, rather than being blown about by what everyone else wants, and trying to make everyone happy.
4. Prioritise self-care as if your life depended on it - I am not joking, either. If you are over-giving, you are depleting your energy, and you likely need to look after yourself in the same way you look after other people. Self-care isn’t just long baths and massages (although they are both lovely!); it’s daily practices such as taking regular breaks from work, eating regularly, getting enough sleep, and standing up for yourself.
5. Develop healthy boundaries - when we have good boundaries and we are clear on what our needs are, we take care of them, we worry less what others think, and our relationships improve. If you are constantly giving to others, you may need to learn about boundaries, and see where you need to strengthen them. You may need to work on time boundaries - e.g. how long you stay out on a work night; emotional boundaries - e.g. not taking responsibility for how others are feeling; or consumption boundaries - e.g. limiting how much social media/news you view.
6. Ask for help - sometimes we feel like we have to do it all on our own, and that somehow we have 'failed' if we have to ask for help. That simply isn’t true. It takes strength to ask for help when we need it. What do you need help with right now?
7. Make time for fun - if you have a hobby, make time for it. If you don’t have one, maybe it’s time to try something new. Make time to see your friends, too. These things take us away from our worries for a time and sometimes help us come back with a fresh perspective.
As a giver in this world, you are precious, but you can’t give from an empty cup. Learn to look after yourself, figure out what you want, develop your boundaries, and ask for help when you need it. You can then give from the best of yourself, rather than from what’s left of yourself.