6 Secrets Of Managing Mental Stress effectively
: Vijaykumar Shah
In the demanding business environment every working professional is fighting with project time lines and budget. Timely delivery is the first the criterion for measuring success of any project.
This puts us to work under lot of work stress. With living with high level of work stress, you are putting your entire well being at risk.
In short span Stress can prove a booster dose , it fires up your will power and willingness to complete the work in time. It asks the brain to produce more and more adrenaline. You may feel the work satisfaction and enthusiasm. But if you are working under stress for a long time, it shows the side effects. Stress actually shakes up your emotional equilibrium and your physicalhealth.
The first effect you can notice is it narrows down your ability to think clearly, act effectively and enjoy life. It seems that there is nothing much you can do about it. The project deliverables will not stop coming, there will never be more hours in a day, ( but the project time lines are shrinking). Your work and family demands will always demanding. But a good news is that there are certain things over which you have control.
Effective Stress Management helps you to break the stress pattern and thus helps you to come out of that vicious circle and becomemore productive , happier and healthier
The goal is to have a balanced life with time for self , family and work and building your capacity to work under pressure and lead.
Unfortunately Stress Management is not a one size formula that fitsall. Stress and Stress Level is different for every individual. What works for others may not work for you. It is important to know what works for you. With some general tips you can identify it.
- Identify what exactly is causing the stress ( The root cause)
Identifying the source of stress is the first step of Stress Management. The root cause. The source.
It starts with accepting the fact “ you are under stress” . It is not as simple as it looks.
There can be many symptoms ranging from simple head ache to loss of appetite , or overeating.
There are some symptoms which you may never suspect of , can be related to stress like lower back pain, skin rashes , vomiting ,loss of enthusiasm etc.
Symptoms can be cured once the source is identified.
It is easy to identify the major stress sources like change in the job, going through a Divorce , loss of a friend or relative .Identifying the sources of chronic stress can be a complicated task.
But if you take a close look at the changes in your behavioralpattern, habits , excuses , and your own thoughts that contribute the every day stress level, you can identify the source of the stress. Since you know that you are constantly worried about aproject deadline, may be some decision you are procrastinating on that is causing the stress.
Just check these .
- You constantly assure your self that the stress is a temporary thing.( “ I have hundreds of tasks on my mind right now”)but you do not remember the last time when you watched a comedy movie in theatres with family.
- When some one asks you about stress , you explain it as integral part of your work life. ( If there are no arguments in project , you can not call it a project)
- Stress is caused by the events which are not in your control / out side of the project or unplanned incidents.
Unless you accept the responsibility of your role in creating the stress, yourstress level will always be beyond your control.
To know this letswork on some data.
Stress Log – Lets prepare a Stress Log to identify Stress Pattern.
A Stress Log can be a good help in identifying the regular Stress source and the way you are dealing with it.
Every time you feel stressed, keep the track in the log.
Once it is logged in, you will begin to see patterns and common causes.
For this write down following things in the log.
- What caused the Stress.
- How you felt both Physically and emotionally (Body and Mind reaction)
- How did you act in response?
- What made you feel better (What was your action/ decision)
- 4 A’s of Stress management
Stress is an impulsive response to a situation. But some stress builders arise at a predictable times. Like a project weekly meeting, or travelling to the new work location. While handling such situations you can change the situation or change your response to it by the 4 A’s
Avoid , Accept, Adapt. Automate
- Avoid– It is not always possible to avoid a stressful situation but if you know howthe word, “Avoid” will help you in reducing the stress, I am sure you will be surprised.
- Learn to Say No. Know your limits and Say firm “ NO” to the requests which will cause you to go an extra mile and work more than you can handle. Learn to distinguish between “ Should ” and , “ Musts” and when possible ,to say NO if it is too much. I am not saying to take challenges , but know your limits first to avoid unnecessary stress.
- Avoid People who Stress Out : In all walks of life you will find some one consistently causing stress. His remarks, his behavior will cause you stressed, if possible avoid such people or limit the amount of time spend with such people. Or simply end the relationship.
- Take Control of your Environment: If you feel stressed travelling to office travelling in specific time slots of the day because of traffic. Change your timings or opt for a different route
- Prepare a TO- Do list and prioritize your work , thus you can decide if you can avoid the situation by delegating it to some one .
- Accept– Accept The situation Some time there is no alternative , Neither you avoid those situations. Nor you can change, such as death of some one very near to you. Or taking up new responsibilities. In such cases the best way to cope with the stress is to accept the fact. Though it may be difficult., once you accept , it will help you move a block further in thinking. You will start thinking of How instead of Why. It is easier to accept than to rebelling against the situation which you cant change.
- Look at it as opportunity- When you face a major challenge in life , look at those as an opportunity to learn new things. Learn from mistakes
- Learn to Forgive -Accept the fact that we live in a complex world and people make mistakes. Let go the anger , free your self from the negative feeling by forgiving and moving on.
- Adapt – If you can not change the situation, change your self. By changing your expectations and attitude you can take control of the situation effectively.
- Reframe the issue – Look at the picture from a different perspective. It will help you in setting up new expectations. Rather than getting angry over the traffic Jam , think it as an opportunity for listening to your favorite music track.
- Look at a bigger Picture- In a stressful situation ask yourself how important is your work from a wholistic view. Ask what it will result after a year.
- Automate – There are certain repetitive tasks. Tasks like analysing data for building reports can be automated. Use Excel Pivot Tables for daily reporting it will help in reducing efforts and time with accuracy.
- Physical Activity-
When you are stressed , getting up and exercising becomes the last thing on your list. But believe me , physical activity is the easiest and best stress reliever. When your heart pumps up and the circulates the blood through your body, it makes stress to vanish miraculously. You do not have to be a athlete for that. Neither you need to spend an hour in gym.
Exercise releases Endorphins that make you feel good .Exercising also serve as a good distraction from daily worries. What you need is physical activity which will boost your heart rate.
Here are some simple ways to achieve this.
- Put On some fast music and dance around waving your handsabove shoulders.
- Take a brisk walk in the garden
- Take a stare case instead of elevator while going up and down.
- Play Ping Pong or activity based game with a your kids
While just any physical activity based activity will burn away tension and stress, it is found that rhythmic activity are effective in removing stress, It can be a brisk walk on fast rhythm . The other choices are swimming, running dancing, cycling and aerobics.
While exercising make sure that you pay attention on your somatic ( Bodily) sensations as you move are moving. Focus on your breathing and movements.
For example focus on how you inhale, and exhale and the duration when you neither inhale nor exhale. This exercise will disassociate you with negative thoughts that often lead to stress.
- Connect to Others
Spending quality time with family and friends is the beststress burster. It is the best of all options. In fact face to face interaction helps brain to release required harmons that eases body’s fight or fllight mode.Its a natural stress reliever. It helps in fighting depression and anxiety as well.
Connecting people , friends and family may not directly resolve your problems but it definitely eases up the tension. So always be there with innercircle of friends, it improves your life.
- Reach out for real friends and not the virtual friends on social media.
- Help some one by volunteering in social activities.
- Have a lunch / Coffee with a friend.
- Ask a family member / Distant relative to check in with you regularly
- Meet new people by joining a community
- Make time for fun and relaxation– Take out some time for fun with family
Family is an integral part of our life. It is the purpose of our work life. We forget this basic thing while working. Because of our busy work schedule, especially when working under time constraints, we tend to ignore family and pay more attention to the work. Often it is found that the work eats up family time, I mean when we work beyond office hours, some time from home, the dailly communication / sharing between family members is taken as disturbance.People live in an isolated world even when they are at home. This builds lot of tension and stress. But taking a time out and talking to family members, going for an outing with them helps in diverting the mind and reduces the stress.
It does not take much of time.Here is a list of some simple activities.
- Do something every day which you enjoy : Going for a morning walk along with kids or cycling on week ends . it not only helps in reducing stress but creates strong family bonding.
- Keep a good sence of humor : Humor helps you to find the funny side of any situation. This is a good relaxation tool.
- Manage your Time Better.
Poor time management causes collision of time lines. This leads to multitasking, It does not matter , how efficient you are, you can pay attention to a single task at a time. Its hard to stay calm and focused in such conditions, where things becomes demanding. In such case you tend to cut back on healthy routines like morning walk, meals on time etc.
Here are practical tips to help you in managing your time effectively.
- Priorities your tasks in three categories ( Must , Should and Nice to have) Ignore Nice to have tasks.
- Identify time wasters – Prepare a log for every day routine . The log should be for the activities you were doing on every half hour. Do not judge. Once you prepare the log for a week , you will be able to identify time wasters. Just eliminate these , And you will have much more time for important activities.
- Break Projects (Your Goals) in to small WBS (Work Break Down Structure) and focus on completing one at a time.
- Delegate responsibilities. – It is not necessary that you do all the work. There are some small tasks which can be assigned to others. If there are other people in the project who can take care of the tasks, why not utilize their capacity.
By – Vijaykumar Shah ( email@example.com )