Today’s post is a day early, but seen as it’s national stress awareness day, I thought this would be fitting. Each and every one of us is affected by stress from time to time; some more than others, yes, but we all know the feeling. As we mature and get to know ourselves better, we become more in tune to both our personal triggers, and to which coping mechanisms work best for us. This week, I thought it would be nice to really think about what works for me, and pass on some of my own stress-busting ideas. So without further ado, here are my top 5 coping mechanisms for when life seems a bit too overwhelming.
For me, lists are a complete life-saver. Admittedly I’m a bit of an organisation freak, but there’s something about having a good to-do list that really calms me down. When I have all these tasks swirling around in my head, I find I’m using half of my energy just thinking about what I need to do, leaving no headspace to deal with actually doing them. By writing everything down instead of using your brain as your notepad, it’s surprising how much more manageable it all seems. Once you have a list, it’s as simple as working through it one by one, without simultaneously thinking about what you have to do next. Mono-tasking is the way forward people!
2. Ten minute rule
I used to be a person who was regularly late for events, despite lateness being something I really hate. I just couldn’t understand why I would always set off ‘on time’ yet still not manage to actually be on time. Nowadays I always apply my ‘ten minute rule’ if possible; always think about how long it will take you to get somewhere, and aim to set off ten minutes earlier. This 10 minute buffer allows time for the ‘little things’ we don’t think about, but that end up eating our time, for example locking the door, getting the car off the drive or putting our shoes on. For me, there’s nothing more stressful than being unpunctual, hence why I find this technique so helpful.
Recently I read Marie Kondo’s famous book ‘The life changing magic of tidying’ and it has, as promised, changed my life. Living in a family home, it’s unrealistic for me to totally de-clutter the entire house, but clearing out my room has had such a positive effect on my stress levels. It’s so lovely to have my own space which I enjoy spending time in. Even silly little things like folding my clothes differently so they’re easier to see has a calming effect; seemingly insignificant daily tasks like getting dressed become so much easier. I’m really all about the little things; we tend to dismiss them, believing they’re not big enough to have an effect on our stress levels but when they’re all added up, they often have more of an impact than anything else. On a side note, I would highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book, it’s a really enjoyable read, especially for my fellow organisation geeks out there.
4. Get the right amount of sleep for you
I will never stop preaching the power of sleep, as it literally affects every aspect of our lives and health. Notice I haven’t tried to specify an ideal number of hours; this is because it varies hugely from person to person. Some people need very little sleep in order to function properly, whereas others need a lot more. What’s right for you is something you need to figure out yourself; both too little and too much sleep can have a negative effect on the mind and body, subsequently increasing stress levels. Personally, my ideal is 8-10 hours per night, which might seem quite a lot. I find that if I have less than 8 hours, I struggle to get out of bed and tend to need a nap in the afternoon. On the flipside if I sleep for too long, I feel groggy, headachy and lack energy throughout the day. Finding the right amount of sleep for you and sticking to that whenever possible is a really useful stress-busting tool.
5. Deal with things now
This is something I didn’t learn until quite recently. When we’re feeling stressed or under pressure, the easiest thing to do is sweep things under the carpet and bury our heads in the sand. The only problem is, the things we need to deal with then only become more urgent, whilst additional tasks come up in the meantime. As those deadlines become nearer and the unread emails pile up, it only makes us more stressed, which can lead to a vicious cycle. Put an end to that cycle today; make an action plan and actually do it, sort through your emails and from now on as soon as something needs doing, do it immediately. Your head will feel much clearer for it.
Stress management truly is so important for our productivity, but more importantly for our physical and mental health. I really hope these ideas can be of some use – they certainly have been for me. Furthermore, if anyone has any of their own stress-busting techniques, I’d love to hear them; I’m always open to new ideas, so the more the better!