Managing your stress

Exercise

Exercise can help you manage your stress, and above all else, it is good for your overall health.

Exercise can;

  • help you sleep better and feel more rested,
  • relieve stress,
  • boost your health,
  • strengthen your immune function, and
  • improve muscle tone and strength.

You certainly do not need to go and join a sweaty gym. All you need is any activity that keeps your heart rate elevated for at least 20 minutes. That can be walking, cycling, golf, swimming or playing sport – if you can raise your heart rate doing it, then it will improve your energy levels and stamina, reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems, and help you feel better and sleep better.

However, you should avoid heavy exercise one hour before bedtime – let your body unwind and calm down before sleep.

The Four A’s

There are a number of methods for managing stress; this is just one of them.

Avoid

Believe it or not, you can simply avoid a lot of stress. Plan ahead, rearrange your surroundings and reap the benefits of a lighter load.

Take control of your surroundings. Is the traffic insane? Leave early for work or take the longer, less travelled route. Hate waiting in line at the cafe? Take a packed lunch.

Avoid people who bother you. If you have a co-worker who causes your jaw to tense, put physical distance between the two of you. Sit far away at meetings or walk around their workstation, even if it requires some extra steps.

Learn to say no. You have a lot of responsibilities and demands on your time. At a certain point, you cross the line between being charitable and being foolish. Turn down the neighbourhood watch. Pass on coaching football for the under 10s. Those around you will appreciate more time with a relaxed you. And you'll have time to enjoy them too.

Ditch part of your list. Label your to-do list with A's, B's and C's, according to importance. On hectic days, scratch the C's from your list.

However, some problems can't be avoided. For those situations, try another technique.

Alter

One of the most helpful things you can do during times of stress is to take inventory, then attempt to change your situation for the better.

Respectfully ask others to change their behavior. And be willing to do the same. Small problems often create larger ones if they aren't resolved. If you're tired of being the butt of your wife's jokes at parties, ask her to leave you out of the comedy routine. In return, be willing to enjoy her other jokes and thank her for making you laugh.

Communicate your feelings openly. Remember to use "I" statements, as in, "I feel frustrated by shorter deadlines and a heavier workload. Is there something we can do to balance things out?"

Manage your time better. Lump together similar tasks — group your phone calls, car errands and computer-related tasks. The reward of increased efficiency will be extra time.

State limits in advance. Instead of stewing over a colleague's nonstop chatter, politely start the conversation with, "I've got only five minutes to cover this."

Accept

Sometimes we have no choice but to accept things the way they are. For those times try to:

Talk with someone. You may not be able to change a frustrating situation, but that doesn't mean your feelings aren't legitimate. Phone or meet up with a friend. You'll probably feel better after talking about it.

Forgive. It takes energy to be angry. Forgiving may take practice, but by doing so you will free yourself from burning more negative energy. Why stew in your anger when you could shrug and move on?

Practise positive self-talk. It's easy to lose objectivity when you're stressed. One negative thought can lead to another, and soon you've created a mental avalanche. Be positive. Instead of thinking "I am horrible with money and will never be able to control my finances," try: "I made a mistake with my money, but I am resilient. I'll get through it."

Learn from your mistakes. There is value in recognizing a 'teachable moment'. You can't change the fact that procrastination hurt your performance, but you can make sure you allot more time in the future.

Adapt

Thinking you can't cope is one of the greatest stressors. That's why adapting — which often involves changing your standards or expectations — can be most helpful in dealing with stress.

Adjust your standards. Do you need to wash the car and aircraft every week? Would macaroni and cheese be an unthinkable substitute for homemade lasagna? Redefine success and stop striving for perfection, and you may operate with a little less guilt and frustration.

Practice thought-stopping. Stop gloomy thoughts immediately. Refuse to replay a stressful situation as negative, and it may cease to be negative.

Reframe the issue. Try looking at your situation from a new viewpoint. Instead of feeling frustrated that you're home with a sick child, look at it as an opportunity to bond, relax and do a load of laundry.

Adopt a mantra. Create a saying such as, "I can handle this," and mentally repeat it in tough situations.

Create an assets column. Imagine all of the things that bring you joy in life: vacation, children, pets, flying. Then call on that list when you're stressed. It will put things into perspective and serve as a reminder of life's joys.

Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, "Will this matter in a year or in five years?" The answer is often no. Realising this makes a stressful situation seem less overwhelming.

The power of positive thinking

We don’t need to be victims of our own emotions, thoughts and attitudes. We can control how we respond to stress and we can become more sensitive to stressful situations and how they are affecting us before it manifests as a physical, mental or emotional complaint. There are simple, scientifically validated solutions to stress that let people rewire their own stress response.

The best way to manage stress is to deal with it the very moment you feel it. Millions of people unsuccessfully use the binge-and-purge approach when it comes to stress. They stress out all day, believing that they can wait until later to recover when they go to an evening yoga class, to the gym or take the weekend off. Unfortunately, when we put off responding, our bodies have already activated the stress response and it’s our health that suffers.

A particularly simple but effective method is just to take some deep breaths.

Help yourself

Here are some ways you can manage your own stress levels:

  • be actively involved in identifying areas of work that are stressful and suggest ways to control them,
  • recognise and cope with your own stress, and
  • notice and accommodate stress in others.

Stress app

There are many apps for smartphones and tablets out there, this is one we came across that is liked by a lot of people. It is obviously not a substitute for a proper diagnosis from a doctor. You can find it here http://www.azumio.com/apps/stress-check/index.html.

Stress Check by Azumio