We all experience stress from time to time and there’s no denying that this year has been a particularly stressful one so far.
The symptoms of stress are well documented and range from sleep loss to a lack of productivity. At worst, stress can even lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Whether you’re a student, job seeker, getting ready for your first role or already in work, knowing how to manage stress is key in safeguarding your productivity and overall health and happiness. Here are 5 steps you can take to keep stress from interfering with your day:
The first step is to find out what causes you to feel stressed. The best way to do this is to think back to times you felt stressed and reflect on the circumstances: where were you? What was happening and was anyone else involved? How did you react to the situation?
Keep track of these instances and start looking for patterns. For example, you might discover that your stress is related to a certain task, or perhaps it only occurs when you work late or are working with a certain person. Evaluate your response too: did it make it better or worse?
2. Make positive changes
Once you’ve identified your stressors it’s time to think of ways to curb them. Some practical adjustments may be needed: a change in routine, for example, or exploring different approaches to a difficult task. Perhaps you’re too perfectionistic, say ‘yes’ too often or need to ask for help more? Take a step back from your usual way of doing things and consider the alternatives.
3. Find ways to cope
While you may not always be able to avoid stressful situations, you can control how you react to them by finding ways to cope with stress. Exercising regularly has been proven to help reduce stress levels, while other people swear by practising mindfulness and meditation. Find out what works for you, whether that’s taking a walk at lunchtime, practising breathing exercises or listening to your favourite music, and make it part of your daily routine.
4. Nurture good habits
Coping mechanisms aside, there is one fundamental rule that counts for all of us when it comes to countering stress and that is to take good care of yourself. A healthy diet, plenty of sleep and a good work-life balance are all incredibly important in reducing your stress levels. So put yourself first and set boundaries: nobody else is going to do it for you.
5. Reach out
A problem shared is a problem halved, so talking to someone about your stressful day can help you release some of the pressure you may be feeling: try friends, family, mentors, managers. With the latter especially, it’s important not to just vent though; really think the issue through and bring up some suggestions that won’t just work for you but for everyone else involved too.
The trick to managing stress is to not let it get the best of you. So make a conscious effort to identify your stressors, find coping mechanisms and, most importantly, take the time to look after yourself.