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STAIY’S COMPLETE GUIDE TO MANAGING STRESS

Photography by Sharon Wright from Unsplash

November, 4th 2020

This Wednesday, 4th November, is Stress Awareness Day! Staiy magazine joins in on the global event, putting together 11 strategies for less stress in our readers’ professional and personal lives.

 

Words By Marina Hoyer

This week, on November 4th, the world celebrates Stress Awareness Day. Founded by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA), the date serves as a reminder for individuals to reflect on the level of stress in their lives, embark on a more mindful approach, and actively seek strategies to relieve stress. Chronic stress has the potential to dramatically affect human health, making individuals susceptible to increased blood pressure, a weakened immune system and severe heart conditions. For this reason, we at Staiy Magazine want to mark the occasion by raising awareness on the topic and providing our readers with tips and tricks on how to relieve stress in their everyday lives.

Stress at work

Write everything down and focus on one thing at a time

Tasks that are not noted anywhere are constantly in our thoughts. Instead of channeling the brain’s capacity on fulfilling a task, our mind wanders trying to recall all these tasks. This is extremely inefficient and stressful. Write everything down so that your mind is free to focus without worrying about losing track or forgetting important tasks. If anything new comes up, simply add it to the list and recenter your attention back to your current task. Focusing on one thing at a time will help you steadily work your way down the list.

Source: Pinterest

Set the tone for the week by creating a plan Monday mornings

Instead of slouching on the office chair looking grumpy and scrolling aimlessly through a pile of e-mails, set the tone by starting your workweek in high spirits and with the right actions. Ideally, you arrive at your office welcomed by a tidy desk. If not, make sure to free your workspace from clutter so your mind can declutter as well. Open the windows, let some fresh morning air in, and make yourself a warm cup of tea or coffee. If you need a double espresso shot, go for it. Do anything that will tend to your mind and soul’s wellbeing. Sit down, make yourself comfortable and write down all your to-dos and meetings for the week. Do all this before getting caught up in replying to e-mails.

Stop overthinking

In the first fifteen minutes of starting a task, avoid dysfunctional thoughts about what you are doing. Some people tend to over analyse their actions before even getting started. This habit can lead you on a downward spiral of more and more stress. Try to quiet the noise in your mind. Be kind to yourself and remember that the outcome does not have to be perfect right from the start. Very often, the best ideas come up in the process.

Clear distinctions between work and free time

A common source of stress for many people is in finding it hard to draw a clear line between work and free time. If this applies to you, try to establish rituals that help you switch your work brain off. For instance, when coming home, make it a habit to take a warm shower straight away. Listen to your favourite music or podcast as the water runs over your body, rinse off the day and put on clean, cosy clothes. If you work from home, it is essential to create a spatial distinction between work and leisure. Dedicate a room for your home office, to which you close the door when you call it a day. If you do not have the space, at least store your laptop and files away for the evenings. Another useful strategy is to treat your home office as a regular office, for instance by establishing fixed working hours or by wearing proper clothes during work and switching into loungewear afterwards. Finish your day with a short evening walk to get some light physical activity and fresh air.

Source: Pinterest

Be smart enough to recognise when the workload gets too much

If your workload is constantly boiling over, organisation skills and relaxation techniques will not help. In such cases, try first to delegate tasks. Some people find this difficult because they unconsciously believe that they are the only ones who can do the job. Remind yourself that your team members are qualified, capable professionals. Your next step should be to raise the issue with your superior. Most likely, they have so many of their own responsibilities that they simply do not realise you are struggling. If your supervisor shows minimal support, consider contacting the workers’ council of your company or use the situation as an opportunity to explore vacancies with other employers.

Stress at home

Say no

Sometimes, the best remedy after a long work week is to unwind in the comfort of your own home and snuggle up on the sofa with a movie. More often than not, though, Friday nights are linked to parties and nights out. If the weekend is packed with such social events, this can be another source of stress despite their fundamentally enjoyable nature. As hard as it may seem, try to cut down on the socialising and say no to those invitations more often.

Photography by Sarah Wayte from Unsplash

Photography by Caspar Camille Rubin from Unsplash

Share responsibilities and chores

Instead of taking everything on by yourself, get others involved. Assigning specific chores around the household means there’s that much less to worry about. If emptying the dishwasher is your daughter’s job and taking the bins out is done by your son, you do not have to worry about it anymore. Fixed routines and chores also avoid stressful arguments and teach children to take responsibility. Regarding meals, share the cooking with your partner or flatmate, and treat yourselves with a meal or takeout once a week. Another great trick is to prep meals in advance, storing portions in the freezer for a day when you don’t have the time to cook. 

Handle emotional stress in a constructive way

Swallowing anger or suppressing hurt feelings might seem like a safe bet to avoid conflicts, but in the long run, the accumulated tension will cause stress. Instead, seek out a calm moment and address your concerns. By expressing your own feelings instead of making accusations, avoiding words like “always” or “never” and making an effort to understand the other person’s perspective, you can solve the conflict in a stress-free way. In contrast, not every tiny issue has to turn into a full blown discussion. Instead of getting worked up over your partner’s socks lying on the floor, ask yourself: Will this still matter a year from now? If yes, then address it as described. If not, take a second and remind yourself of your partner’s wonderful qualities; it will be easier to overlook their small flaws.

Do what brings you peace

When you cannot pinpoint a specific stressor but experience an intangible feeling of imbalance, find an activity that calms your mind and brings you inner peace. Whether it be yoga, meditation, arts and crafts, physical exercise or autogenic training (a relaxation technique) — experiment with different outlets until you find your holy grail. 

Me-time and digital detox

Too much screen time is a notorious contributor to stress. Try apps that help you limit screen time or even commit to full digital detox days where you allow yourself some me-time away from technical devices. Indulge in your own little wellness retreat; light some candles, relax in the warm bath with a book, apply a face mask and drink a soothing cup of chamomile tea.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Get professional help

If you have tried everything without success, it might be time to talk to a professional. Your first point of contact should be your general practitioner who can refer you to a psychologist or other specialist. Do not be ashamed to ask for help. Just as we visit the doctor’s when we have the flu, seeking medical advice for our mental health should be treated with the same importance.

Is stress always bad for us?

From an evolutionary biology perspective, the stress response system serves a purpose. It facilitates a “fight” or “flight” reaction mechanism that helped our ancestors survive in the face of danger. Although modern hunting grounds like supermarkets or restaurants do not typically expose humans to dangerous predators, stress still serves a function. Psychologists differentiate the negative distress from the positive eustress. Indeed, studies have found that eustress can increase productivity and even lead to a flow state. University students, for instance, might perceive the days leading up to an exam as a positive challenge. The stress makes it easier for them to focus and prevents them from procrastinating. 

However, as is often the case, the dose makes the poison. Stress situations will only have a positive effect if they are temporary, whereas chronic, accumulated stress can ultimately lead to numerous problems. Anybody who experiences stress, whether perceived positively or negatively at first, should keep an eye on themselves. After all, living a happy, balanced life should be our main priority. So, celebrate Stress Awareness Day with Staiy on the 4th of November by practising our stress relief techniques and becoming stress-free!