When was the last time you felt stress? What are the causes of stress? There are, in fact, three emotional symptoms of stress: anxiety, anger and depression.
Stress is a part of life and can serve as a useful reminder to re-look into our priorities or motivate us to push ourselves further.
Unfortunately, not everyone can handle the state of being stress. Long-term stress can result in severe consequences such as health management problems and personality disorders. It can interfere with your life, job, health and relationships.
What matters most is how you handle it. Many people, even those who don’t look like they’re stress, have experienced intense stress at one point and manage to overcome it. It’s never too late to start now. The good news is dealing with stress is effortless and begin with a few lifestyle tips and changes.
1) Cut Yourself Some Slack!
Ask yourself, “What are you stress about?” Are you the culprit of making yourself stressed out? When you’re feeling this way, do you make it harder on yourself?
Pondering over your failures and weaknesses doesn’t help you one bit. In fact, whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation, take three deep breaths.
Most of us believe that there’s a need to be hard on ourselves to perform our best.
When you’re not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them, you reduce your stress levels and improve your performance.
You’re better off reflecting on your mistakes and telling yourself that everyone makes them every now and then. And that’s okay. It’s proven that people who’re willing to let go and move on from their mistakes aren’t just happier and more optimistic, but also less anxious and depressed and thus, turning out to be more successful.
2) Learn to Look at the Big Picture
Does everyday feel like a never-ending cycle of overwhelming tasks from yesterday? As you tackle your mountain of tasks, you should draw energy and motivation by looking at the big picture.
For instance, it’s not about how tiring or tedious it is to research on information asked by your boss, but how this research will guide you in producing commendable work.
There’re many times we catch ourselves thinking, “I’ve got better things to do than this!” When we look deeper and realise the greater purpose of our actions, it’ll cast a whole new light on things that didn’t seem important or inspiring on their own.
So the next time you slog through your long list of unread emails at the day’s end, don’t think of it as merely “digging myself out of my inbox”.
View it as “showing decision-makers how committed I am in meeting their goals”. Studies have shown that when we start thinking about the why behind our behaviour, we’re less impulsive, less vulnerable to temptation and as such, more likely to plan our actions in advance.
Thus, we’re more certain of who we are and what we want. This way, we’re much less likely to feel that “outside forces” of the negativity or opinion of others.
3) Rely on Incorporating Routines
If you were to list the major culprits of your stress, chances are tight deadlines, meetings, massive workload, bureaucracy and a demanding boss.
But one key stress indicator is when we’re required to make a decision.
Most of us aren’t aware of this powerful and pervasive cause of stress in our lives. Yet every time you make a decision – when to ask your supervisor for help, whether to reply to that email right now or having to make management or operational decisions, – you create mental tension that is, in fact, stressful.
This is where incorporating routines come into place.
There’s a saying to eat the frog first. It means to start your day by tackling the most challenging task. When we start our day, the first task we do defines the productivity of the rest of our day.
If there’s a task that’ll take you some time to complete it, make it a habit to do it at the same time every day. This way, you can tackle a substantial part of your workload and this makes it easier to move on to other important projects.
4) Find Time to Do Something that Excites You
What is your interest?
When we do something we’re passionate in, we become energetic and excited. We also tend to perform better when we’re at it. In the midst of the workload, find time to take care of your needs and reward yourself. Nobody ever wished they spend more time working.
If you want to liven things up a little at work, you need to make time for things that interest you. It could when you’re having that weekly catch-up session with your boss or when you’re engaging with your customers on a live chat via Facebook. Figure out what keeps you feeling alive and challenged in your field.
5) Have a To-Do-List and Stick by It
Does an entire day goes by before you check a single item off your lengthy to-do-list? Do you find yourself constantly distracted? A simple task could take you an hour and you feel unproductive and inefficient in what you do. It isn’t a good feeling, and could lead to increase stress levels.
The first step to eliminate procrastination and help you stay focused is to come up with a to-do-list. But, coming up with a to-do-list isn’t good enough until you get things done. What helped me to stay mindful of my tasks is to set a time limit for each task.
A remarkable tool to do that is toggl. It’s a time tracker that helps you measure your productivity level and ensures you get things done in a timely manner. It’s great for those who’re overwhelmed by their workload and need something to help them stay on track and refocus on their attention.
6) Articulate Your Desired Response
When you’re feeling stressed, it can feel as if the universe is conspiring against you. It’s easy to get trapped in a negative spiral, ruminating on everything that went wrong.
Perfectionism can trap us. We keep going into the weeds to fix “just one more thing”. Hence, projects never get done the way we want them to because we’re fiddling with them. We overthink situations and create unnecessary tension in our heads.
How do you break this vicious cycle when it’s your own mind playing tricks on you?
Feel what you want to feel. React the way you want to.
Holding it in only makes you feel worse. Thus, relax your eyes and take small breaks whenever you can. Go for a walk or prepare a snack to munch on. Do whatever you need to feel productive again.
7) Focus on Yourself, Your Well-Being
We aimed to be ‘perfect’ whether it’s in front of our family, friends, colleagues or bosses. We wanted to prove that they can trust and rely on us. In doing so, we may have made sacrifices or exhausted ourselves.
We act in two contrasting ways while pursuing our goals.
We focus on proving what we already know and the other is to concentrate on learning new skills and developing our abilities.
When we focus on trying to be perfect or work towards perfecting things (which is not wrong), we may however find ourselves comparing our progress with others. And when things don’t go our way, we start to doubt ourselves and isolate in negativity or worse, depression, which creates more stress and anxiety.
Even if you take a longer time than the rest, so what? You’ll get there.
To improve and make enough progress, we need to measure our performance. We need to be completely honest with ourselves as the only person we should compete and compare ourselves with, is us.
When you catch yourself comparing your performance with others, ask yourself, “Am I improving?” “Am I doing better than I was yesterday?”
8) Appreciate and Reward Yourself for the Progress You’ve Made
You’ve come this far. So why stop now?
Don’t think about how far left you still have to go but how much you’ve accomplished so far. You didn’t give up then, so why should you give up now? When things get tough, learn to appreciate yourself and give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished.
Be confident in your capabilities and thank yourself for not giving up back then.
9) What Keeps You Going?
What we may not know is we add stress to our lives by managing it in ways that don’t match with our own motivational styles. Figuring out what drives you forward helps you rein in your stress levels.
Is it your family at home that motivates you? Or a personal goal you’ve been wanting to achieve? Whatever it is, when you have a purpose to keep you going, things do get better.
Learn to look on the bright side. If you’re feeling stressed at work, perhaps it’s time to look out for other job opportunities that work better for you.
If you’re feeling stress at school, talk to someone who you know you can trust and provide practical advice to keep you moving forward.
10) Don’t Forget You’re Human Too!
We all need a little reminder sometimes that we’re human. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, fatigue, annoyed, anxiety, tension and stress. These feelings are what make us human, alive and present of the state we’re in.
Nobody can make us feel stress except the situations and mindset we put ourselves in. And it’s the same for putting ourselves out of it.
You may not be able to control stress that occurs to you, but you can take control of how it affects you. Stress doesn’t have to interfere with your productivity, health and your happiness. By viewing stress as a way of telling you that you’re working a little too hard, you just need to adjust your lifestyle changes and practice positive habits and do what works best for you.