Stress is part of everyday life. It is important that you have some stress in your life because it can lead to thinking resulting in different outcomes. Life without stress will start to become a bit like “Ground hog day”, where every day will feel like the previous because you are not moving forward, not challenging what you are currently doing, and not learning!
Some stress helps inspire people to accomplish goals, delivering outcomes that would not even be considered if you had no stress in your life. But having the right amount of stress is important, and having too much can cause problems. Not only at work but also in your personal life, it is hard to keep them separate.
The goal is to be able to live a life in balance. You need time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun, plus have the resilience to hold up when the pressure goes on.
The key to stress management is the realisation that you are in control of your life. You need to take control of who you are and how you are living your life. This includes your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and how you deal with life’s little, or big, challenges.
Key steps in Stress Management
Understand your stress
There are a number of causes of stress, some major like:
- Changing jobs
- Relationship challenges
- Projects going off track
- Financial issues
- Finding a house & moving
- Getting married
- Christmas day (one of the most stressful days of the year)
- But there are also smaller stress causes that can create major issues for people:
- The way you think and handle emotions and feelings
- How to handle problems or issues that arise – do you procrastinate
- What is going on inside your head, what insecurities you may have
Tracking your stress is a great way to understand what causes your stress. A stress journal is a great approach for this, where you capture:
- What caused the stress
- How it made you feel
- Your response
- What you did to make you feel better
This enables you to learn from each stressful event that occurs, and through understanding comes insights on what you can do to reduce or even eliminate the stressful events
Activities that reduce your stress
There are a number of activities that can reduce your stress:
- Fitness & eating healthy
- Schedule in fun times, things you like doing
- Take time out to simply talk
- Understand what are common predicted stressors and decide if you can change the situation or your reaction to it
- Get a massage, do yoga/tai chi / deep breathing exercises, listen to music, spend time in nature…whatever works for you, just make time for it!
- Get more sleep
- Reduce caffeine, sugar, alcohol and drugs
- Focus on your thinking – are you thinking positive or negative thoughts?
- Focus on the now! – focusing on the future which may or may not occur doesn’t always help, takes you away from what you can do now
- Use affirmations and visualisation to help focus your mind
- And utilise meditation and guided imagery to help relax and focus your attention – the key is to be able to quieten your mind, paying special attention to your breathing
- Focus on managing your time better – prioritise what you focus on, with a goal of reducing your stress as a top priority. And don’t over commit your time
- Delegate vs the Do task yourselves
- Swap or share portfolios
- And spend time away from your phone!
If the stress relates to a certain stakeholder:
- Try to understand what is driving the stress.
- What is occurring in their environment that could be causing their behaviour that is causing you stress?
- What beliefs about this person or situation do you have? Are these belief’s accurate or based upon your perception, which may be wrong?
- What is their thinking preference? Could the way you are communicating to them driving the stress?
And find someone who has a good relationship with this stakeholder and find out what works for him/her, what is their passion/thinking preferences. Or simply talk to the stakeholder about the situation and how this is causing you stress!
When you know you are already quite stressed you might want to:
- Get people to read your emails before you send them out
- Consider what you say next:
- Is it helpful?
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Self-Assessment Reality check
- on a scale of 1-10 (1 no stress, 10 the worst stress you have experienced) where are you currently. Helps put your current situation into perspective, and previously you have survived worse
Actions to prevent stress occurring, or at least reduce the impact
I find managing stress, especially around the pressore of large time-dependent project, is a lot like making it through labour! Focusing on all that needs doing or the difficulty of keeping up an intense pace for a long time, can be overwhelming.
– Suggestion from one of our staff
Other suggestions which may help you reduce stress:
- Get active, even if it is a 30 min walk every day
- Eat healthy
- Focus on your thinking
- Focus on your breathing and keeping your mind quiet and relaxed
- Manage your stress triggers
- Regularly challenge your beliefs about a person or situation
- Planning – manage peak workloads better. Build into the project plan time for you to build up your resilience so you come into the busy period fresh and better equipped to deal with the pressure
- Complete “What’s on your plate exercise”
- Visually show your Manager what is already on your plate so you can have a discussion on what is the highest priority, and what can be dropped?
- Regularly take time out with your colleagues to build your team morale and culture before the busy pressure starts