As the holiday season is now upon us and hopefully everyone is taking a bit more time away from their bustle, I thought it would be a good time to blog about stress management. Now more than ever it seems like we are inundated with distractions and pressure. Coupled with this, expectations from employers and family members remain unchanged leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety. One thing that seems to be resonating in my workshops is that stress cannot be entirely eradicated and when this is attempted it inevitably leads to further stress.
This blog will give some tips about mitigating stress when it cannot be eliminated. Last month I wrote about my experience with parental dementia. This is a perfect example of stress that cannot be avoided, and life is full of them. Any stress involving family or someone in your life that you cannot untangle from will bring with it a form of stress. Below are three of my favourite tips for staying on top of your life when stress does descend.
Firstly, the most effective thing you can do during periods of high stress is to ensure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most natural states of all living creatures. Now, this may sound simple enough in normal times but I understand all too well that feeling of sleeplessness due to anxiety. If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep try making an effort to unwind an hour before you go to bed each night. This could include taking a hot bath or turning off any overtly sensory devices (such as your tv or phone) It’s also a common misconception that one needs a perfect night’s sleep every night to be on top form. If you are becoming increasingly anxious about the diminishing sleep time you have that night you are also diminishing your chances of going to sleep. Remove anxiety by telling yourself that you can catch up the next night.
Whether it is work or a difficult situation with a family ensuring that you take time out to give yourself a break will help to allow you to cut through some of the fog that stress gathers around your mental state. When I was caring for my father I was vigilant about ensuring I took regular steps away from my situation to regroup with myself. I reached out to family and to organisations and this made an enormous difference to my ability to manage the stress. If the source of your stress is work then make sure you take a break away from your desk; the longer the better but if all you have is 10 minutes then use that to change your scenery. Stress builds up cumulatively in your system and by not giving yourself a break you are adding to the tension in your mind and body.
Finally, I talk about this a lot in my workshops and my one-to-one’s’ self-care. Ensure you have factored in your own needs in your daily routine. What is one thing you could do every day to take care of yourself? Is it a walk? Is it a chapter of your book. What are the things that truly make you happy and how much time are you spending on these things every week and month. Take time to take stock of how you are spending your energy and if you’re not dedicating time to what makes you happy then take active steps to fix this. Sometimes we are unaware of how neglectful we can be of our own happiness. If you’re not sure how much time you are spending on yourself each month draw up an energy pie. Where is your energy going each month? While caring for my father I found massage particularly soothing and made an effort to take time out to spend with a massage. Whatever it is that brings you enjoyment or relaxation make it a weekly event.
I hope this has been a useful read. I would like to reiterate that attempting to eliminate stress entirely from your life is nearly impossible but there are many things you can do to offset the effects.