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isolate

Whether it is in our personal lives or careers we all face stress at some stage. I tend to find it happens the more responsibilities pile up and the more you take on new challenges. While greater responsibilities often help us grow, we also need to find that balance as stress should not be something that rules our lives.

Negative effects of stress to physical and mental health

While you may not even realise that you are suffering from stress, I have found from personal experience the following symptoms can occur:

• You begin to isolate yourself from those around you and interact less with others

• You experience fatigue due to lack of sleep

• Decreased morale and lack of enthusiasm to complete tasks – which in turn can result in poor results at work

• Increased headaches, aches and pains in the body and additional health problems over time

• Becoming emotionally sensitive or over-reactive about the slightest mishaps

I tend to find that I experience stress the most when I am trying to plan an event and I take on the role of ‘organiser’. While I can set out a plan in advance for a team or work project and feel like I am 100% on top of things, one can never be completely prepared for the unexpected. This includes setbacks, delays, emergency situations, individuals dropping out of projects, something going wrong etc.

Trying to do this on top of my daily routine, it can appear impossible sometimes. If I don’t try to deal with it appropriately I am now aware that I start to show signs of the symptoms above. I’m sure that most of you can relate, and sometimes that easy alternative is to switch off or even give up.

This option does not often result in a positive outcome, and since I don’t believe in quitters, I have developed stress busters to try and tackle what I am struggling with head on.

What you can do differently to help overcome stress

• Don’t sweat the small stuff – I remember reading this in a workshop that I attended recently thinking ‘easy for you to say’, but it really does help if you change your thinking slightly. It can be very common to worry when things are not going exactly to plan, but if we spend time worrying about all of the little things, how will you be able to cope with more challenging situations? You will be too exhausted! Have a back-up plan if need be or find alternative solutions and even if you have to tweak or change your plans slightly it is often worth it. But also keep calm and collected in the process, this will allow you to be able to react more clearly instead of letting stress cloud your judgement.

• Healthy mind and body – When people are stressed they tend to find that they have less time to do some of the things that can truly benefit their productivity.

• Putting healthy eating and exercise on the back-burner will often leave you feeling even more ‘burnt out’. Sometimes I struggle combining the two as I enjoy exercise but I love food, and often it can be bad habits like takeaway or sugar products. What have I learned from this? Well these foods result in constant highs and lows but I need a continual balance to be performing at my best. Find those super foods that are good for your body and also make you feel good, if this means taking the time to prepare meals in advance then do it, this will save you resorting to eating last minute fatty foods that leave you feeling sluggish.

• If you’re not a gym junkie then go for a walk or do some yoga at home. Clear your mind every now and again and this will result in better sleep patterns. I like to go for long walks sometimes after work or on weekends and I find when I come back I am so refreshed because I just needed that little bit of ‘me time’.

• The art of delegation – Most people consider this to be a weakness to ask someone else for help so they try to take on everything themselves which can result in stress levels going through the roof. Not only that but deadlines are sometimes not met and it can leave you feeling more like a failure. If you have others involved in projects that you are working on, ask them if they could assist, even if it may seem like a simple task to pass on it could end up freeing your time just enough to get other deadlines completed. Work together as a team and if times get quieter for you, offer your friends or colleagues a hand in return.

• Develop a hobby or read a book – If you find it hard to ‘wind down’ right away after work, keep your mind stimulated with something that you enjoy doing and you can eventually relax and calm yourself enough to rest. I enjoy writing in my spare time, painting or reading books by inspirational authors to motivate me daily. If you feel like perhaps you have lost touch with your hobbies, it is never too late to get back on track.

• Prioritising tasks – I have outlined this previously in my time management blog, but the more you organise your tasks in order of priority, the less you will often feel stressed or worry that you haven’t finished what you needed to do in a day. Don’t be afraid to communicate what you are doing as well to others so that they are not adding additional tasks to your workload if you don’t believe you will be able to achieve this at the time.

• Communicate to someone – Believe it or not bottling up stress can in fact create further stress and anxiety. Make it clear if you are struggling so that someone can help you overcome this. A lot of the time others will not be aware of what is going on if you keep it to yourself, the sooner you communicate, the sooner you can find resolve.

How have you learned to cope with stress over the years? Do you still apply certain principles today?