I have noticed that from time to time I forget about what it means to me to feel stress. Not because I am never stressed, but because I work a lot on preventing stress. So, I want to share with you my very own strategies, and give you some extra tips which are work-related.
- Self-knowledge: We gotta stop and learn about what stresses us, the main triggers at least. Knowing what stresses you will help you prevent that stress grows exponentially and would support you in selecting strategies. Example: you know that you will have a deadline at work that would cause you stress, or a difficult meeting or just a rough patch of something happening to you on a personal level. Or you might know whether the cause of the stress is external (upsetting news, an unexpected argument, noise in the street, the media) or internal (pushing yourself even though you are tired, feeling like you have to be perfect all the time). Know when your “stress bucket” is getting full and when you are starting to be on edge.
- Self-care/activity/purpose: Self-care is not only about pampering yourself, it is a habit of stress prevention too. Knowing that stress is coming? Then do something extra you love. Self-care is also taking 10 minutes a day for your favorite magazine, your favorite series or a phone call with your favorite person. Venting and talking sometimes it is all we need to put things which look giant in perspective. Having an activity we love increases learning and curiosity and helps us with self-compassion and patience (that we can lose when we are stressed). Have a look at my very own mental spa.
- Movement and holistic wellbeing: You tend to get very stressed or anxious and on top of that you drink 6 coffees or pull an all-nighter because of a deadline? Our body is not designed for prolonged stress and sleep deprivation, and we gotta help our body to function well, so that our mind follows, and vice versa. Reducing amount of caffeine is scientifically proven to reduce stress feelings, and a good night sleep of 7 to 8 hours is a way to recharge. What regenerate you mentally and physically? Maybe a good run, maybe a breathing exercise you enjoy, a meditation practice or a walk in nature where you experience awe and silence. If you tend to arrive late to places and are a last minute person, and this causes you stress, try to set an alarm 5 minutes before you would actually get out of the house, so you don’t need to stress and run to catch a bus. It makes a difference.
- Reduction in social media intake from time to time: If social media is causing stress because of the amount of information of because of comparisons to others, or if WhatsApp is burning with messages, take a break. We don’t have to be 24 hours connected. It is OK to stay 10 hours with no phone, even a day! You can let your family and friends know, if that helps you, and know that if there is something urgent they can always call you.
Bear in mind that stress is contagious! It will immensely help you being more compassionate to yourself and others to tackle stress in a new way.
- Stress coming from many emails and urgency to respond: Place a footnote on your signature saying something along this line (you can use this as a template!): P.S. Make Flexibility Work - “My working hours may not be your working hours. Please do not feel obligated to reply outside of your normal work schedule”. Whenever you are out of office and/or cannot reply, place an out of office message so you manage the expectations and are a bit more self-compassionate. Block time in your calendar for work and commit not to look at emails of WhatsApp (30 minutes chunks at least).
- Stress before vacation: consider taking an extra day off of half day off before your actual vacation. Usually we arrive exhausted at the last vacation day, because we try to do everything and we have still 100 emails. You can use the “last working day” to clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up and prepare your out of office message and close last minute thing. But you can still use the day after that as a day off to pack, to get things ready with your family, to leave your apartment tidy. This type of care creates less chaos in our minds and sets the tone for a real vacation, not a rushed one.
- Self-compassionate breaks: no lunch in front of the computer (unless is to watch something fun) or eating during meetings when you know you are not focused on your food and cannot fully enjoy the experience. Take breaks to drink enough water, just walk or stand up for 5 minutes.
Tackle the source of stress with communication: is there a particular relationship at work that stresses you? Is there an unspoken conflict? Is there a task that really makes you suffer. We should talk, we should tackle the elephant in the room. Encourage sincere conversations at work.