5 Tips to Manage Stress: Guest post by Cloe Matheson

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(image: Healthy Today Club)

With research increasingly demonstrating the correlation between prolonged stress and a shorter lifespan, we would all like to avoid the spectres of stress and anxiety.  But since chances are the vast majority of us have been confronted with both at some point and will be again in the future, what does it take to manage pressure yourself – or even better, to build a lifestyle which doesn’t allow stress a look in?

Check out our 5 simple tips to get started on your journey to calm.

 

  • Avoid triggering substances or habits

 

We hear it all the time, but it’s true: the things you fuel your body with significantly affect how you feel. Particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with a gut condition such as IBS (which has been shown to worsen in times of stress), you’ll want to ensure your diet is full of colourful, digestible wholefoods. In times of stress, a salad is often the last thing most of us want to reach for – but even if your current best move is reducing your caffeine intake, that is a step in the right direction.

If you’re currently using other substances to self-medicate during or after a long day – we’re talking nicotine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant) – then let this be the push you need to give up those bad habits.

 

  • Anticipate and respond

 

Particularly for perfectionists and people who experience social anxiety, stress is unavoidable in daily life.  Although easier said than done, try to embrace this inevitability as best you can – as our fears often lose their power if we are prepared for them to manifest.  When you are in the midst of responding to stress directly, keep these coping mechanisms in mind:

  • Exercise – put those fight-or-flight hormones to good use and have a workout while restoring yourself to calm. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long run at peak intensity: it can be as simple as walking around your office block when you need a workload break.

 

  • Breathe – if you’re delayed in a waiting room or have just received challenging news, don’t panic.  Sit or stand somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, visualise a serene place in your mind, slowly breathe in and out, and relax to the sound of your exhalations until your heartbeat slows and you can figure out your next step.

 

  • Sleep

 

Even for those of us who believe we need no more than 5 hours of sleep per night, humans just aren’t built to withstand such short stints of shut-eye on a regular basis.  

The proper functioning of both body and mind rely on essential processes that occur during sleep, including the renewal of skin cells and the retention of information in the hippocampus – the main memory-processing section of the brain.  Since these processes can only be completed in a state of sleep, it’s best to take your zzz’s seriously.

 

But since stress may be the exact thing keeping you up at night, here are some rituals to build into your bedtime routine:

  • Stop work at least an hour before bed
  • Have a warm bath or shower at night
  • Put some lavender oil on your pillow
  • Read (a book, rather than a screen!) before you turn off the light
  • In the dark, focus on relaxing every separate limb and muscle of your body before going to sleep.

 

 

  • Get talking

 

John Donne was right: no man is an island. Bottling up your stress and trying to manage alone may work in the short-term, but not forever. To avoid building up pressure that leads to breakdowns, consider chatting to a counsellor or a grounded friend about how you’re feeling, or join a club or society which will allow you to talk with like-minded people who may struggle with similar problems. If you are internet savvy, even online discussion boards and forums can be a safe place to air your woes.

 

  • Prioritise and identify

 

Are you staring down a hectic month of appointments, task-juggling, and trying to perfectly fulfil a different role for everyone in your life?  Compartmentalise to deal with the mayhem.

What do you need to prepare for your next move?  Tackle your tasks individually and avoid thinking about your myriad other tasks until you are finished working on each one.  Stress often peaks when we consider all our problems or tasks in their monstrous sum, whereas they are much more manageable taken alone.

If you struggle through every month, you need to identify what causes your stress. No one can do everything, and you may find that you have overcommitted to tasks. What can you say No to? At times like this, it’s worth remembering that you are the only person in control of your life: so put your wellbeing first.

Cloe Matheson, the author of this article is a writer and blogger. She can be contacted here:  https://cloewrites.tumblr.com/

Guest post by Lucy Boyle: What you need to know about Burnout Syndrome

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Stress and pressure are a part of everyday life. Our jobs often bring a fast pace; we may have to meet deadlines, complete projects in a certain timeframe, or put up with stressful environments. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s a certain amount of stress that just “comes with the job”.

However, there are times when the pressure gets to be too much. You may have been dealing with days, weeks, months, or even years of too much work and not enough downtime. The stresses of the job may be piling up with the stresses at home. Eventually, you run the risk of what is known as “burnout syndrome”.

Burnout syndrome, also known as occupational or job burnout, is defined as “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” The symptoms of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Frustration and negative emotions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Reduced performance on the job
  • Lack of personal care, unhealthy coping mechanisms (eating, smoking, drinking, etc.)
  • Interpersonal difficulties, both on the job and at home
  • Preoccupation with work, even when you’re not working
  • Chronic health problems
  • Illness (the result of chronic stress)
  • Headaches
  • Decreased satisfaction with the quality of your life

If you’re noticing these symptoms in your life, you may be suffering from or getting close to burnout.

But what causes burnout syndrome? How does it get from “I’m having a bad day at work” to the feeling of being overwhelmed, overburdened, and emotionally drained? There are a lot of things that can contribute to the feelings of burnout.

  • Interpersonal relationship problems at work, with coworkers, employees, or employers.
  • A lack of control in your life, feeling like you have no say in anything that goes on at work or home.
  • A lack of clarity in your job description or burden of responsibilities.
  • Monotony or chaos in your job—both can require a lot of energy to remain focused.
  • Company ethics, values, or methods of handling feedback, grievances, or complaints that are not aligned with yours.
  • A job that doesn’t fit with your skills or interest.
  • Isolation at work or home; you may feel like your social support is lacking.
  • An imbalance in your work-life routine, usually too much time spent at work and not enough at home.

All of these factors can add to your feelings of stress and anxiety. Over time, they simply INCREASE until you feel like the burden of your job is too much to bear.

The truth is that occupational burnout is incredibly common, especially among human service professions. ER physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, police officers, and customer service reps are all at a very high risk of burnout. The high-pressure environment and occupation add to the emotional demands of the job. Eventually, everything becomes too much to bear and you suffer from burnout.

So what can you do if you’re feeling burned out? How can you cope with the mounting stress and pressure that may eventually become too much to bear?

Engage socially. Social interaction and connection is one of the most effective antidotes to depression, anxiety, and stress. Spending time with family, friends, and coworkers can help you to feel better. Making friends at work can change the environment positively, making work seem less stressful because of you have a social support framework in place. Open up to people and share your feelings. It can release some of the pressure building inside you and encourage better connection with others.

Reframe your perspective. Instead of seeing work as a bore, a chore, or a stressor, try to find value in what you do. Your job benefits someone, so look at what you do as providing an invaluable service.

Evaluate your priorities. What’s more important to you: work or home life? If your career is important, find ways to focus on it without adding to your stress. Work on a better work-life balance. Take more time off work, even if it means someone else gets the promotion you wanted. Set boundaries on your time and availability. Set aside time to relax and unwind, both in the middle of and at the end of the day. Stop rushing around so much—from home to work and back home again. Focus on what matters: your health and happiness!

Change your lifestyle. Get more sleep. Eat better. Exercise more. Drink less coffee and alcohol. Read more books. Walk in the park more. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Move around more. Quit smoking. Improve your lifestyle, and you’ll find your body and mind better able to cope with the feelings of stress that could lead to burnout.

In the end, YOU are the one in control of your life. Make the decisions that will reduce stress, not add to it. Take care of your body, mind, and emotions, and you’ll avoid those feelings of burnout!

Lucy Boyle (@BoyleLucy2), is a full-time mother, blogger and freelance business consultant, interested in finance, business, home gardening and mental health.