Stress. The word alone is enough to make some people start feeling like the world is closing in on them.
There are numerous studies and research papers that talk about the impact of stress on our lives, on our society and on business productivity. While the exact numbers vary, depending on which white paper you are reading, all of those reports and studies have one thing in common…numbers are rising.
A higher percentage of people are visiting their doctor for stress-related ailments and complaints. When stress is not managed, we get sick more often. The flu and the cold keep us at home in bed more often. As stress levels continue to rise, we are entering hospitals for stress induced heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.
Businesses are seeing higher absenteeism rates and even when employees do show up, they are showing up in body but with only half their mind present. The other half is still in the car in the parking lot trying to figure out how they are going to get through to lunch.
When we learn how to manage stress, when we control the stress instead of allowing it to control us, we enjoy richer, deeper, stronger relationships. We work better, we feel better … we live longer.
The question becomes, how do we do that? What can we do to bring our minds, our lives back to a healthier place?
Know yourself: There are too many people working in jobs they don’t enjoy because someone told them they should do it or because of the status associated with the job. Perhaps they are not working at a job or in a field of their choice because they don’t want to appear unsuccessful in the eyes of their friends, family or sadly, in the eyes of total strangers. Work takes up a huge amount of our lives. The stress we put upon ourselves each and every day, when we go to a place we don’t want to go to, is enormous. Within each of us is our own definition of success, our own picture of what a fulfilled life looks like. Go after that vision; don’t let other people’s vision of success define your life.
Live in the moment: Try to truly experience what you are doing now, rather than worrying about the work you left behind, or chores you should be doing. Stop worrying about all the things that could happen. Stop hanging on to and rehashing poor decisions or errors made. When you do that, instead of dealing with the stressful situation once, you are living it over and over again.
Get organized: Getting organized is more than just creating a filing system or cleaning up a storage room. Get rid of clutter; get rid of things you are hanging onto “just in case”. When my husband and I downsized, we had to get rid of stuff, lots and lots of stuff. And you know what? We haven’t missed any of it. Absolutely hold onto some treasures; pulling out pictures, children’s artwork, whatever your treasure is, invites joyful memories and sharing time, two other great stress relievers.
Be realistic: Much as we might like to think we can do it all, we can’t. What can you reasonably accomplish in 24 hours, knowing you need to set aside time to sleep, to exercise and to eat? Taking care of yourself physically makes it easier to accomplish more, so don’t eliminate those from your schedule. Then, if you think you need 45 minutes to get something done, give yourself an hour so you don’t get stressed out when you run into a complication. Create a “must do” list and a “if I have time” list. Take an item off the “if I have time” list if you don’t need that extra 15 minutes you gave yourself for the other project.
Take a few deep breaths. Stress is a chemical response to a perceived danger or threat. Deep breathing forces you to stop, to focus on your physical reaction. A few deep breaths reduces blood pressure and muscle tension, two physical reactions that need to be managed in order to get back to a state of mental calmness.
Meditation, humour, talking to people in your support network … all these activities help to reduce stress.
And when all else fails, grab some bubble wrap! Something about the mindless act of popping the bubble, hearing the popping noise and then moving on to the next bubble, until there are no bubbles left to pop, brings my stress levels down every time!
What are some techniques you use?