We’re never going to be entirely stress-free, but we can aim to keep it under control and limit its negative effects on our health. With the busy season right around the corner, work-related stress is about to become an unwelcome norm and having a strategy to manage it will be an invaluable tool. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s important to step back and evaluate your own stress and what techniques you find most effective.
Understanding your stress
Stress is a personal experience, a little different for everybody. Not everyone feels stressed by the same factors or gets relief from the same techniques. By taking the time to understand your own experience with stress, you prepare yourself to recognize it quickly and respond with effective techniques the next time it starts to overwhelm you.
1. Identify your stressors
Some people find a tight work deadline motivating; for others, it causes a spike in stress and anxiety. Stress triggers vary widely so you should first identify what yours are so that when they appear, you’re ready to reach into your toolbox of stress relieving techniques. Money, family, change, work, or self-image are all common sources of stress.
2. Recognize how your body responds to stress
Fatigue, headaches, irritability, sweaty hands, difficulty sleeping or even oversleeping. These are all common symptoms of stress. The next time you start to feel stressed, take note of your body’s physiological response. By learning what those responses are, you can use them in the future as tiny alarm bells alerting you to the fact that it’s time to make use of one of your stress reduction techniques.
3. Learn which stress reduction techniques work best for you
Many people find yoga to be a wonderful form of stress relief, but others find it just makes them impatient. Just as our bodies respond differently, there’s no universal strategy for managing or reducing stress. Experiment with different strategies to find the ones that are most effective for you. The next time you start to feel stressed out, you’ll already know which techniques pack the most punch for you.
Stress reduction techniques and strategies
There are so many stress reduction techniques out there that it can be hard to identify where to start. To help you out with that, we’ve categorized some suggestions of our own by when they’re most appropriate to use. After all, a technique that works for you at home, like receiving a hug, might not be appropriate for the office or at the grocery store. Try out some techniques from each category so that you end up with a good mix ready to use whenever your stressors start to creep up.
- Quick techniques are short term strategies that can be done anywhere and provide quick relief.
• Meditation: Free, always available, and effective, meditation triggers your body’s relaxation response and helps you disengage from your stressor. You can find many tools that help you learn how to meditate such as classes, blogs, and guided podcasts.
• Take a walk: Exercise is a near-instant stress reliever and even a brief stroll around your office can give you the break you need to come back with a better state of mind.
• Chew gum: Sounds a little too simple, doesn’t it? But studies have shown that chewing gum creates a feeling of wellbeing and lowers stress, perhaps by promoting blood flow to your brain.
• Get into the beat: Music often has a major and instant impact on our moods. Create a playlist of songs to keep close at hand that help you relax or cheer you up when you’re down.
- At home techniques help you relax fast when you’re in an informal environment where you feel comfortable, whether that’s your own home or a friend’s.
• Connect with a loved one: Physical touch from someone you care about, such as a hug, releases oxytocin which in turn boosts happiness and lowers stress. This also works with pets who provide companionship and keep you active.
• Be artistic: Creative pursuits such as painting or using a colouring book have a meditative effect that results in lower anxiety levels.
• Write things down: Writing about your stress, as well as what you’re grateful for, can put things in perspective by helping you step back from the emotion and anxiety of the moment.
- Long term strategies are behaviour changes that over time will help you build up resilience to stress while increasing your overall health.
• Maintain a balanced diet: A poor diet can wear down your defences against stress. Even though we all enjoy treats like cookies and chips, the sugar crash that follows can leave you more open to anxiety and stress.
• Moderate your caffeine intake: Overindulging in caffeine is a sure way to become jittery and anxious. Since sensitivity to caffeine varies, there’s no hard and fast rule about how much you should allow yourself. Instead, find the threshold that works for you and stick to it.
• Schedule time for fun: Life gets hectic and the easiest thing to cut is often our hobbies and fun activities, but that will set you up for failure in the long term. Schedule time in your calendar for the things you enjoy and don’t let them be shifted. You need to give yourself space to decompress and recharge to avoid burnout.
• Remove or reduce stressors: Now that you’ve identified your stressors, remove or reduce them. While we often can’t avoid work related stress, making an active effort to avoid procrastinating and learning to say no to additional work can help reduce the effects of common stressors.
• Ask for help when you need it: If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, let someone know. Reaching out to those you trust for support can help you get through stressful times by reinforcing your sense of belonging and self-worth.
Although stress turns up in many parts of our lives, taking a personal approach to managing it reduces that pressure, and its negative effects, more effectively. Try out some of the techniques above and find which ones work best for you. And don’t stop looking for new ones! There are many tools and suggestions out there that may be even more effective for you than the ones we shared.