As you know by now, it’s stress awareness month and we’ve talked about our culture and stress, spotting the difference between burnout and stress, and now we’ll get to the juicy stuff. The tangible tips to help you manage your stress levels so that you can alleviate some of the power it can hold over us! Keep reading to find out how.
You have the capacity to successfully handle stress (has anyone ever told you that?) and it’s a good thing because we all face stress, probably on a daily basis to some extent! Some of us can handle more than others, true, but we can all tolerate and manage our own level of stress without it interfering with our day-to-day lives. This capacity is known as our stress threshold, the level at which we can successfully handle stress before it gets too much for us. Like our pain threshold, each of us will have a different limit - some prefer their bath to sizzle as they step in, others a little cooler.
When we know where our stress threshold lies, we can make efforts to manage our stress levels to ensure they don’t surpass our limit and prevent the negative effects of stress impacting our lives. And, we can build this threshold with routines and the tools to take good care of ourselves. When we feel content, light and energised stress seems much more manageable for us. But when we are tired, feeling low, possibly even hungry the stress we face can feel totally overwhelming.
Taking steps to manage our stress levels is great for organising what can only be described as that ‘brain chaos’, the flurry of thoughts that even just thinking about stress can bring on. We will also benefit from this by feeling a little more in control, which is especially helpful when things seem overwhelming and unmanageable.
4 steps to managing stress
Identify your stressors
Take time to reflect on what has been causing you stress recently and make a list to identify your stressors so they can be faced head-on or removed. Having a list not only helps us keep track of stressors, but can also give the feeling that we’ve got more of a grip on things when we see them in front of us.
Remove the unnecessary
Then we can remove any unnecessary stressors - the things we don’t really need right now, taking on additional tasks, the going the extra mile bits. It might mean cancelling some plans, postponing meetings, turning your phone off for a few days. We want to lighten the workload to protect ourselves from the stress building to unmanageable levels.
Learn to tackle the big things first
When the bigger things in life loom over us, it can cloud our judgement and be quite distracting, which only adds to our stress levels. This can be difficult to master - especially if you’re a procrastinator or just prefer to tick off the little things first. But maybe there’s a looming deadline and you can start prepping, or outlining what you need to do to help relieve some stress. What big stressors can you tackle to clear your path?
Prioritise the important things
Looking at our list of stressors will help here, as this will be individual to you. Which ones really matter, or are less pressing and will have the least consequences for not doing them yet? This doesn’t mean pushing out the small ones, to tackle the big ones, or taking away the fun and joy. Listen to your needs to determine what is truly important to us right now - that catch up coffee might actually be more important than going through your email inbox!
When we talk about removing and prioritising stressors, we do not mean avoiding - that is not a ‘healthy’ coping mechanism and is a behaviour that could worsen how we cope and therefore feel. We want to reduce the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to prevent a cycle of avoidance and consequential isolation. Those little plans, the simple things can really brighten our day and give us a boost - in mood, motivation, even to join that meeting with a smile.
Before you go: daily stress can seem trivial in comparison to big life events or sudden changes, but it all adds up. Understanding your daily stress and using tools to manage it can prevent those smaller things from building up to become big things. This is a great practice to have in your toolkit, to practice regularly, but remember life ebbs and flows and it won’t be a miracle cure for all your stress all the time.