What my score means
In a nutshell, stress management involves: changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation. The following tips will help you get the better of stress before it gets the better of you.
We need 7-8 hours’ sleep to give our brain cells time to reset. Lack of sleep affects your concentration, mood and productivity – sleep deprived employees are more prone to mistakes, less aware of the fact that they are making mistakes, less creative and more likely to be injured. Not getting enough sleep also makes you more grumpy!
Taking regular breaks improves concentration and productivity. Standing up and moving around helps increase blood flow to the brain. Spending your break looking at the computer won’t allow your brain to rest!
Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking emails. This is especially important in the evenings as light from the screen disrupts the production of your sleep hormone. Reading a book at night instead of screen-based activities, not looking at your smartphone before 9am and after 8pm, using train journeys to read or listen to podcasts instead of checking Facebook – all this also adds up to time when you’re not just cramming more information in for your mind to process.
Stress causes dehydration, dehydration causes stress! Drinking water regularly increases your alertness and concentration and reduces tiredness and occurrence of headaches. Rather than sipping throughout the day, it’s important to drink a larger quantity in one go (drink the whole glass or more when you feel thirsty rather than taking a few sips every so often) and repeat that throughout the day.
Turn to friends of family, talk to a colleague or line manager/HR. They don’t have to fix it, it’s sometimes enough just to be listened to. Opening up won’t make you a burden to others; in fact ‘others’ will feel flattered by the fact that you feel you can confide in them, which will strengthen your relationship with them even more.
Pick one activity during the day (e.g. brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making yourself a cup of tea) and do it mindfully – bringing your attentional focus to what you’re actually doing in that moment instead of thinking about the past or future. Regular mindfulness practice will enable you to ‘keep your head on’ in the times of stress: you’ll develop the ability to pause (even if for a few moments) to check in with yourself, before responding to the stressful situation.
When you’re in stressful situation, calm yourself by taking three slow deep breaths. That also gives you time to pause to assess the situation.
Start attending classes – yoga, tai chi, qigong, mindfulness etc. Different things work for different people, so do try a few things out – there is so much on offer locally – and see what works for you! Even a short physical activity of around 15 minutes can have huge effects in terms of how much of your brain is engaged, improving your concentration and productivity. You can even do stretches at your desk!
Stress tenses our muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders. Open up your shoulders and stand/sit up straight. This improves mood and make you more confident to deal with the challenging situation.
If you feel you don’t have time, then it’s just a question of making time for seeing your friends, going for walks in nature, reading, gigs, or anything else that helps you relax and feel good about yourself.
Find a coach, therapist or counsellor to work with – make sure you meet them first before you commit to having sessions as impressive professional qualifications and experience still do not guarantee that the particular person would be right for you. It’s standard practice to offer a free consultation (in person or over phone/Skype) to all new clients so talk to at least a couple of people before you choose the one you want to work with.
You are not alone. Other people suffer from stress too. Sometimes it is very useful to find out more about tools and techniques to tackle stress within a friendly and safe environment. If you live in Brighton and Hove there are many groups to choose from – we run one of them as part of our community programme. Go to www.hovestressbusters.co.uk to find out more about the different events and activities.
Speak to your GP, especially if you feel that your physical and mental health may be at risk.