Most of us think that stress is a normal part of life, some believe it has positive effects on our psyche as it makes us more alert and think better. I certainly do.
Whilst short term stress can be productive, long term stress has detrimental effects on the body and mind no matter your constitution.
Stress need to be managed for a healthy lifestyle and certainly a sharper mind.
Very often we get bogged down with our immediate concerns such as deadlines, work, trying to take on too much both on the work front and the home front. The truth is It is not the work, the looming deadlines that are the problem, their source are:
- Our lack of time management skills
- Our inability to say “no” to impossible work demands
- Our attitude to issues that arise in our lives
Here are some strategies to manage stress from different sources.
Managing Stress from Work
Feeling overwhelmed with work, not knowing where to start when you are faced with all the appointments and pending deadlines on your calendar each morning? Difficulty quietening your mind after a day in the office and cannot get a restful night's sleep? Your source of stress may be work and you need to:
- Prioritise and organise
- Create a balanced schedule
- Don’t over commit
- Plan to start the day with a calm mind—so don’t rush into work everyday. Try to leave home 10–15 minutes early to ease into your day
- Plan regular breaks
- Delegate responsibility
- Break projects into small milestones—celebrate the milestones.
- Have fun—try to meet every challenge with humour
- Communicate effectively with team mates, management and cultivate a friendly social environment
- Not try to control the uncontrollable but instead learn how to compromise, have Plan B and Plan C in place if things do go wrong—be prepared and this requires planning
- Keep moving—block out regular training times and treat them as rigid appointments with yourself and for yourself that you do not re-schedule lightly
Managing Stress from Relationships
A strong, healthy relationship can be a great support in your life. Good relationships strengthen your mind, health and make you feel energised and motivated despite challenges thrown at you.
Relationships can be close friendships, working relationship with colleagues or romantic relationships.
Strategies to cultivate, maintain or strengthen friendships are:
- Effective communication is key—let the other person know your feelings while being a good listener
- Focus on the other person and recognise what is important to them
- Commit to spending quality time together on a regular basis
- Find something that you enjoy doing together
- Try new things, go to a new restaurant or go on day trips together
- Learn how to respectfully resolve conflicts
Managing Stress from Grief e.g. Loss of Life or Relationship
Loss of a loved one through illness, accident or relationship breakdown is draining on our emotional well being. If you constantly replay times spent with lost ones in your mind, feeling lethargic, preferring to dwell in the past and cannot seem to find interest in life, the source of your stress may be grief. To manage this you should:
- Get support from friends and family members, don’t push people away
- Face your feelings and don’t try to avoid them. Acknowledgment of the pain is important.
- Express your feelings in a tangible and creative way—perhaps writing a journal, make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the lost life or get involved in a cause that was important to him or her.
- Look after your physical health—do regular exercises as you will feel emotionally better when you feel good physically
- Plan ahead for grief triggers—anniversaries, birthdays, holidays which can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for the emotional dip but also noticed that it is perfectly normal
- Don’t let other people tell you how to feel and don’t tell yourself how to feel either—note that it is ok to cry, to be sad, angry and to let go when you are ready.
Managing Stress from Physical Image e.g. "I Need to Lose Weight", "I Want to be Ripped"
You need to firstly determine whether your “ideal” physique is attainable and the time you have given yourself to achieve this is realistic.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why don’t I like what I see in the mirror?
- Do I really need to change my physique?
- If I want to make that change, do I know how to do this healthily and injury free?
Once you have determined that perhaps losing a few inches off your waist or getting a six pack will make you happier and more confident and enjoy life more. Try these strategies:
- Train your brain to crave healthier food
- Remember how you felt lighter, had more energy after a light meal of mostly greens and protein? Then think back to a time when you have overeaten, feeling bloated and a little bit sick.
- Recall how good your body felt after eating healthy food whenever you feel peckish, hungry or when you are grocery shopping
- Do a pantry audit and throw away all junk food, food with added sugar, preservatives, all canned foods and start afresh
- Identify overeating triggers:
- Feeling low on energy
- Feeling bored or lonely
- While working or studying at a desk
- Learn how to deal with overeating triggers:
- Stress—try to do slow flow yoga, meditate or get a massage
- Low on energy—try to get outside for a walk, take a cat nap, listen to some energising music, do power yoga
- Boredom—call a friend, organise a social gathering, walk the dog, go to the library, read a magazine
- Practise mindful eating—take at least 20 minutes for each meal and eat only up to 80% full
- Have a personally designed fitness program which will take care of your training, stress relieve and nutrition and most importantly, stick to the program.
- Drink more water and keep hydrated
- Get enough rest/sleep every day as sleep deprivation is linked to hunger, overeating and weight gain
These strategies are by no means exhaustive but can serve as a guide to compartmentalise your likely source of stress as a starting point to change your life.
The overarching strategy in dealing with all sorts of stress is to equip yourself with a positive mindset. Try to find positives in each situation, accept what cannot be changed and learn to compromise. This way, we will be able to face our challenges head on and breeze through life with a smile.
We are here for a purpose and we need to live life to the fullest!