It’s no secret that today’s fast-paced life is conducive to stress. Fortunately there are a number of simple ways to manage stress you can start putting into action today.
1. Identify the ‘downward spiral of stress.’
When something stress-inducing happens, it’s all too easy to fall into a downward spiral, where even unrelated problems get escalated to overwhelming proportions in our minds. This self-perpetuating mindset does an excellent job of clouding our natural judgement abilities.
Ask yourself these questions:
Am I becoming angry with myself for being stressed?
Are my stress levels impacting on my day to day life?
Am I creating a mindset which exacerbates stress?
Am I being my best friend or my own worst enemy?
2. Step outside yourself
How many times have you had a friend tell you his or her problems only to think to yourself :“Wow, is that really it? I’d much rather have your problems than mine”. Well more often than not the feeling is mutual! We have a habit of magnifying our own problems to unrealistic levels.
Take a step back and look at your problems from the perspective of someone else. This will give you the perspective curtail to tackling your problems head on.
3. Don’t focus on the consequences
Do these negative reinforcements sound familiar?
“If I don’t submit this on time, I’m going to be fired for sure”
“Everyone is going to think I’m an idiot”
“I’m going to lose my house/partner/money”
Try not to focus of what you think will happen if you fail to deliver. Not only will this compound your stress levels, it’ll draw your attention away from what’s important. Keep your mind on what you need to do to achieve you goals, not what will happen if you don’t.
4. Decide on some ‘SMART’ goals.
Now it’s time to get to the root of the problem. Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is one of the most effective ways to manage stress, offering a simple, effective way to overcome obstacles and tackle problems head on.
S.M.A.R.T have 5 features; they’re Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Divide a piece of paper in 5 sections, each representing a S.M.A.R.T feature. Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers under each section:
Specific: Who’s involved? What do I want to accomplish? What are my constraints? Why do I need to accomplish this goal?
Measurable: How will I know when my goal is accomplished?
Attainable: What resources do I need to accomplish this goal? How can I get the resources I need?
Realistic: Am I willing and able to accomplish this? Do I need to add and more time or resources to accomplishing this goal?
Timely: What timeframe do I have to accomplish this? Can I break the obstacle down into smaller chunks, each with its own deadline?
5. Reward your progress with something different
Once you’ve taken steps to tackle the cause of your stress, give yourself a break. Go for a jog, meet up with some friends, see a movie; do something totally unrelated. If you keep slogging away at a problem, it’s more than likely you’ll keep coming up against the same roadblocks. Rewarding your progress not only keeps you positive, it also gives you a chance to think of lateral ways in which you can approach the challenge later.