Healthy stress does exist. It’s the butterflies in our stomach before a big presentation, the tension we feel before we go on holiday or when we’re watching an exciting soccer game. It’s temporary but makes us perform optimally, and disappearing afterwards so that the body can return to its natural state of rest.
Negative stress on the other hand is what you want to avoid, leading to health problems and limiting your ability to function optimally. Luckily, with a few small changes, you can reduce the impact of negative stress in your life.
Tip 1 - Awareness
If you want to deal with stress, it is important to look at the symptoms you experience with stress. For example, do you get physical complaints such as headaches or cold hands? Or do you get emotional, and sad or easily irritated? Symptoms can occur in four different areas – physical, emotional, mental, and behavioural. If you know what you do when you are stressed, you can also determine for yourself when you are going beyond your limits, and whether you need to take immediate measures.
Tip 2 – Take a breather
When you are in the middle of a stressful situation, it is difficult to determine what to do to get out of it. So, take a step back and give it some time and perspective. Get some fresh air or clear your head by exercising for an hour. Then you can re-assess the situation objectively. Determine how much you actually have to do, and what the measurable activities are. Put everything on paper and decide for yourself where you are going to start. And make sure you finish one activity before moving on to the next.
Tip 3 - Structure time for relaxation
When your carrying capacity (that which is asked of you) is higher than your handling capacity (that which you can handle), you may experience unhealthy stress. Conscious relaxation can help to increase your capacity. And we’re not just talking about any relaxation, such as going out for a nice dinner or going to watch a movie. These activities are sure to be a distraction but they are still activities, so you won’t be consciously resting when you do them. Relaxation exercises are an example of conscious rest, which can be done between work and even at work. For example, try to take two minutes for yourself at least once a day (this can even be done in the toilet), and focus on your breathing. Count your breaths for two minutes. You will find that these short moments help you to get back to work with renewed focus, peace and pleasure.
Tip 4 - Get moving
If you suffer from stress, mental relaxation is important, but physical relaxation also helps to reduce stress. Your body automatically tightens different muscles during stress. And to relax those tense muscles, you have to move. It doesn’t have to be anything too hectic – even walking is good for you – helping your body to produce happy hormones or endorphins, and reducing your cortisol – and therefore your stress – levels.
Tip 5 - Set priorities
Teach yourself to prioritise. You cannot achieve everything at the same time. Write your activities down, then compare them to with the priority matrix:
1. Contributes to my goal and is urgent: When activities contribute to your goal and are urgent, an action is immediately requested. These activities are therefore are your highest priorities. Without action, long-term problems can arise that you want to prevent.
2. Contributes to my goal, but can be done later: Does the activity contribute to your goal, but can you plan them to be done later? Consider, for example, cleaning your house. You don’t have to do this immediately, it can wait a day or two if there are more urgent things to be done.
3. Does not contribute to my goal, but must be done now: These types of activities are less important to yourself, but are urgent due to other circumstances. This may have to do with the agenda of others or certain deadlines that have been imposed. Ask yourself whether these activities really need to be carried out. Maybe you can ask someone else? If neither of these is an option, pencil in some time to do them.
4. Does not contribute to my goal and is not urgent: Activities that do not contribute to your goal and are not urgent are a waste of your time, so you want to avoid them if there is a lot on your plate. Activities in this category include newsletters in your inbox, excessive social conversations, losing yourself on the internet, notifications on your phone, spending a lot of time on cc emails, social media etc. You can easily lose yourself in these types of activities so it’s better just to avoid them.