Stress is something that we all have to deal with whether it comes from our personal or professional life. But there is such a thing as too much stress and it can occasionally leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of control. I think everyone will agree that too much stress can be bad for your health. But have you ever noticed that some people seem to be able to handle going through serious life events without it affecting them and others seem overwhelmed by even the smallest of events? This is a key difference between those who achieve big things and those who do not. Very often the difference is not in skill or ability, but in the ability to manage stress. If you think about this in a sporting contexts, there are many highly skilled athletes, but what sets apart good from great is the ability to hit the winning shot with the whole world watching and knowing if you miss, everyone will blame you. This is why even top-class athletes spend so much developing their mental game as much as their physical game. So, what can you do to help deal with stress better?
It is human nature to reach for stimulants when we feel stressed or overwhelmed. But overstimulation when we are in periods of stress actually amplifies the effects. So, if you are feeling a bit frantic and you reach for the caffeine or nicotine then you are likely going to amplify your bodies response to the stress. Likewise, although alcohol is a depressant in large qualities, in small doses it actually acts as a stimulant. So, going out to have a beer or glass of wine after a hard day, physiological speaking actually makes the problem worse. Water, herbal tea, and diluted natural fruit juices are the best to drink when you are dealing with stress.
Similar to dealing with anxiety, depression, and other mental stresses, working out is always a good way to deal with the situation. When we are stressed, we release hormones similar to those when we encounter a “fight or flight” scenario. Those feelings we experience as stress are triggered by the chemical reaction of the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. The best way to burn these off and revert to a state where you feel “normal” is by working out. This does not have to mean running 10km, or lifting lots of heavy weights in the gym, even going for a long walk will help restore the chemical balance and allow you to feel calmer.
One of the most common causes of stress is often simply having too much on your plate at one time and not enough time to do it. This is often because we have not said no. By better managing our time and taking ownership of what we are supposed to do and when, everything becomes a lot easier to handle. You may have 10 things to do, but how many of those really have to be done right this second? The answer is likely only one or two. It is OK to say no to some of the other activities. If all 10 things do need to be done immediately, then you need to work on your prioritisation skills. But again, in order to prioritise better, you again need to say no to the tasks that are not as urgent or important.
Pick up the phone
Sometimes, one of the simplest ways to manage stress is simply to vent your frustrations. You may have been dealing with an idiot boss all week who is frustrating to work for in normal periods, but with a big deadline looming they have gone into overdrive. Maybe the kids or spouse are going through some stuff at the moment and leaning on you for support or guidance and you do not know what to do. Maybe a friend has done something stupid or is being unreasonable. There can be a multitude of reasons to feel stressed and venting about it to a close friend or family member can do wonders.
Take a break
Finally, its important to remember that sometimes we just need a break. Even the best athletes, business and political leaders in the world take holidays. It is essential to recharge the batteries and one of the best ways to do this is to take a break. It could be a holiday vacation, where you are sat on a beach drinking cocktails. it could simply be a staycation where you stay at a hotel down the road, order room service and get some spa treatments. But remember, we all need to rest and recharge.
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