The importance of managing stress
Stress is an important evolutionary tool: it ensures that we get things done! Therefore, every individual experiences stress at some point in their lives. However, stress can soon stop increasing productivity and start having an impact on mental health and overall wellness. Signs of problematic levels of stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed, irritable and / or anxious
- Lacking in self-esteem
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as frequent headaches or pain
- Changes to eating and sleeping routines
- Using substances to manage the stress
- Avoiding problems through physical avoidance (such as taking time off from work) or emotional avoidance (not thinking about the problem)
Five tips for managing stress
To help you manage your stress levels, consider implementing the following five strategies:
- Prioritise your self-care routine. Our previous blog spoke about the importance of self-care including prioritising yourself, not listening to your inner critical voice and forming positive relationships.
- Deal with the stressors directly. Learning new strategies is always helpful but often the cause of the stress needs to be addressed. Spend some time reflecting on whether it is your job, relationships, lifestyle or something else that is the primary cause of your stress. Then take steps to address the root cause.
- Breathe! When you start to feel stressed, take a moment in whatever way is helpful to you. This might be in the form of taking ten deep breathes, counting to one-hundred with your eyes shut, having a micro-nap or completing a mindfulness exercise.
- Use time management strategies such as:
- Identifying clear goals for yourself and ensuring that your behaviours are in line with meeting those goals. Make goals ‘SMART’: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based.
- Using effective to-do lists. These can be in paper form or on your phone. It can be helpful to separate to-do lists into four categories: “Urgent and important”, “Urgent and not important”, “Not urgent and important” and “Not urgent and not important” to help you prioritise your tasks. Try to avoid none-urgent tasks becoming urgent.
- Schedule your time – however, do not overschedule yourself, ensure there is time for flexibility, spontaneity and fun!
- Practice acceptance. Try to recognise the things you can change to reduce stress and take the above steps to change them. However, also learn to recognise the things that cannot be changed by you and accept them the way they are. This can be difficult to do and sometimes professional support may be helpful to learn acceptance strategies.
If you are struggling with high levels of stress or burnout and this is having a detrimental impact on your health and wellbeing then it may be time to seek professional help. To find out more about managing stress you can contact Dr Julie Hannan on 07530 854530 or at www.morency.co.uk. For stress related to mid-life issues you can also visit www.drjuliehannan.com.
NHS (2018). How to deal with stress. Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/