Stress creeps up on us. We often know we are approaching overwhelm, but we are highly competent professionals and we tell ourselves we can work through it. “As soon as I complete this project things will get better”. “I have holidays coming up in 2 months time. I can get through to then.” “I wanted this job so much I can’t let them know that I’m almost at breaking point.” We don’t believe we have any other choice but to keeping working at this level of stress.
But……if we don’t take control of our stress it will take control of us. The least damaging result is that we break down in tears one day at work, or collapse momentarily from exhaustion and have to go home. The worst outcome is we have a heart attack or stroke. That’s the ultimate act of stress taking control of us.
We cannot afford to ignore the day to day stresses however because they create a whole range of health issues at both a physical and mental level that have big repercussions for our professional and personal lives.
So when we know we are stressed, we just have to stop, slow down, step back and reflect on what is important in our lives and what changes will help us make that a priority.
Of course, and I’ve heard it too many times to count, we all say we haven’t time to stop. We do and we can. If we don’t, as I’ve said before, our stress will take control and stop us in our tracks.
How Do You Stop?
- Ideally you need to take time away from work – schedule holidays that comprise real R & R, not touristy ones, or long service leave.
- Next best is a week-end of quiet reflection somewhere.
- Work to rule for a month – arrive at 9 am and leave at 5 pm.
- Take all your breaks – lunch time (ideally get out of the office) and morning and afternoon times – and recharge.
- If you persist in telling yourself you can’t do any of those, you need to get help and support from a coach or mentor. If you already have health problems like high blood pressure or are pre-diabetic, or are on anti-depressants or sleeping tablets, you also need to get help from medical practitioners.
Further Strategies to Take Control of Your Stress
- Be pro-active, not reactive. In other words, act now to make the changes you need to make. Don’t wait until something drastic happens where the change is forced upon you, often with an outcome that changes your life in a way you do not want.
- Reflect on why you want to make the change. Be motivated by something of value – “I’m going to have a heart attack by 45 if I continue at this pace and I want to be here for my kids”. This will maintain the momentum and sustain your decision when the going gets tough again.
- Let the important people in your life who will be affected by this decision know about it and your reasons – manager, partner, staff, etc. E.g., tell your staff that you will be leaving the office at 3.30 p.m. on Tuesdays from now on to take your son to footy training, but will be starting work at 7.00 a.m. on Wednesdays.
- Recognise what stresses you. What triggers it in you? List them. How do I deal with them now? What happens as a result? How can I do it differently? What stresses can you control? What are beyond your control?
- If you find this difficult to do yourself, get someone to work with you
* Partner, close friend or relative,
* Accountability partner,
* Mastermind group,
* Personal development courses.
- Build defenses against stress – a preventative approach!
* Diet – natural foods.
* Remove as many chemicals from your life as possible.
* Reduce stimulants.
- Learn ways to relax and disperse the stress constructively, rather than let it accumulate.
* Once again exercise.
* Tai Chi.
* Relaxation exercises with or without tapes.
* Sport – as long as competition doesn’t create further stress.
* Paying a musical instrument.
* Doing anything creative.
Do not use food, especially chocolate or junk food, alcohol or caffeine as a primary means to relieve or manage stress.
- Maintain strong social networks –very important. Place a high priority on spending quality time with people who value and appreciate you as you are, people for whom you don’t have to perform or measure up, people who encourage and support you.
- Pace yourself.
* Take tea and lunch breaks at work.
* Take holidays every year.
* Turn off mobile phones at times to allow quality time for people important to you.
* Develop good time management skills that allow you to leave the office at a reasonable time,
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