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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Stress Management Techniques to Get You Back on Track

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7 Stress Management Techniques to Get You Back on Track

There is no one in this world that can say they have never been stressed. Stress affects us all. Some of us are better at managing the negative impact that stress can have on our lives.

The one person who can control stress in your life is you. It is also up to you to be accountable for how you want to live your life.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with what is happening in your life and you want to get back on track, then these 7 stress management techniques will help to minimise the negative impact that stress has on your life.

What You Didn’t Know About Stress

Stress is a state of tension and it is a normal part of life. The most common external sources that can cause stress in our lives are finances, the demands of work and relationships.

The internal sources of stress come from within us and the pressure we put on ourselves because of our high personal standards, beliefs, values, attitude, goals, needs and wants. Some examples of internal sources of stress can be striving for perfection in all we do or refusing to speak to an audience because of our internal fears.

We also have what is called “internal chatter” which can also cause huge stress in our lives. This internal chatter comes from our negative thought patterns, negative experiences and bad habits. Our negative internal chatter, if we let it, can be quite destructive and lead us to living highly stressed and anxious lives.

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The body reacts to these changes and demands with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Internal and external stressors can have the same physical and psychological effects. You may have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite or lose interest in daily activities. You may be irritable, have headaches or stomach pains, or find that you cry easily.

If not dealt with, overtime stress can have a devastating impact on your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Managing Stress Positively

The good news is that not all stress is bad for us. Being stressed in the right context can have a more positive influence on our lives. Some people say that they produce their best work when they are under pressure to deliver.

When you are able to manage stress in a positive way, this can open you up to new opportunities outside of your comfort zone. It can also be the catalyst you need to change and empower you to come up with solutions and challenges so that you can grow and move forward in your life.

The 7 stress management techniques make up a tool box of strategies that you can use at any time where you are feeling stressed and want to get your life back on track. The more you use these tools, the more proactive you are in managing your stress levels. By managing your stress, you minimise the negative influence it can have on your quality of life.

1. Write Down 5 Benefits You Will Achieve When You Have Your Stress Under Control

When making change or implementing anything new in your life, it is important to identify the benefits for you. The 5 identified benefits become the incentives to encourage and motivate you to make the changes and take action. Once you have these 5 benefits written down, then ask yourself these 2 questions:

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  • “What is it the goal I want to achieve?’
  • ” What are the benefits I expect from achieving this goal?”

Write these responses on stick-it notes and put these notes in a place where every morning you see them.

2. Get To Know Who You Are And Give Yourself Some Slack

Spend some time getting to know you, your personality, your strengths, things you don’t like doing and things you do like doing. The objective of this exercise is to become more self-aware so that you can quickly identify what things in life stress you out, and how you can manage these activities so that they don’t have such a negative impact on your life.

When you know who you are and what is important to you, you will take action to manage the negative activities that are not serving you well.

We can be our own worst enemies and we can be very hard on ourselves, which is not great when it comes to managing stress in our lives. The more self aware you are, the more accepting you are of what your strengths are and what you are not so good at.

Striving for perfection in everything you do and comparing yourself to others will not be so important to you when you know who you are and you are very happy with you.

3. Exercise Regularly

This is a very practical strategy that works. A regular exercise routine in your life builds your physical resilience to manage stress. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.

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Along with exercising regularly, eating healthy, well-balanced meals is just as important when it comes successfully managing the impact stress has on your life.

4. Learn And Practice Relaxation Techniques

“Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Relaxation techniques you could try for stress management are meditation, yoga, or tai-chi. You will always be facing times of stress in your life and by relaxing and calming your mind you give your body time to recover from these stressful events.

5. Commit To Spending Time With People Who Make You Smile

The more stress we face, the more likely we are to withdraw from our circle of friends and family. Stress, if we allow it, can consume our lives physically, mentally and spiritually; and all we want to do is hide away from the world.

Surrounding yourself with people who bring you joy, encourage and support, you will build your spiritual and mental resilience.

Keep a positive outlook on life is a lot easier to do when you are surrounded by people who love and support you. Laughing out loud and smiling lots is a great way to manage the stress levels in your life. The more you laugh in life, the better your “quality of life” will be.

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6. Be Grateful

Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one of the most effective ways to successfully managing stress in your life. This act of writing down every day all the things that you are grateful for keeps you present and real. It gives you a more optimistic and hopeful perspective of your life right now.

To successfully manage stress in your life, optimism and hope are the two key ingredients that you need. Without them, your ability to effectively manage stress is a lot harder – in fact impossible!

7. Commit To Taking Action And Do It

If you allow stress to creep into your life, it will take over your life – physically, mentally and spiritually.

We live in a world of constant change and disruption, so we will always be challenged by the threat of stress.

Commit to taking action to managing the impact that stress has on your life, and do something about it. You are the only one who has the power to do it.

The Bottom Line

There is no escape from stress. These 7 stress management techniques, however, are strategies that if you adopt and practice consistently, will enable you to live your life to the fullest — resilient and strong in mind, body and soul.

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More About Stress Management

Featured photo credit: ALIAKSEI LEPIK via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on September 22, 2021

Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety

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Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety

Sadly, being overwhelmed at work has become commonplace in many industries in the United States, with an astounding 83% of US workers reporting that they are suffering from work-related stress. The US has been deemed the most overworked developed nation on the planet.[1]

Some of you are nodding your head knowingly, while others might be doing a questioning head tilt right now. Here’s the deal—data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the average productivity of American workers has increased since 1950.[2] Unfortunately, since that time real wages have remained largely unchanged (adjusted for cost of living and inflation), meaning that to earn the same amount that we did in 1950, we have to work approximately an extra 11 hours each week—and an unthinkable 572 hours a year. Sounds a little bit stressful, isn’t it?

To put things into perspective, here are a few statistics to chew on:[3]

  • People are so overwhelmed at work that it’s costing American companies over 300 billion dollars a year and over $190 billion in healthcare costs.[4] This is partly because feeling overwhelmed at work manifests itself in increased sick days, decreased productivity, poor mental and physical health, more errors on the job, and increased turnover.
  • Moreover, stress at work is not just costing us money but also our lives. With a staggering 120,000 deaths annually attributed to work stress, something needs to change.

If the external demands are not enough to raise your blood pressure, we are also unwittingly making our situations more challenging by perpetuating an ideology that would stress out even the coolest cucumber. Let me explain.

The idea that’s been drilled into us for most of our American lives has been this: hard work and working hard is to be admired while admitting something is too much is being a lazy wimp. This underlying attitude we’ve all been spoon-fed with is called Internalized Capitalism. According to Anders Hayden, a political science professor at Dal Housie University in Nova Scotia,[5]

“Internalized capitalism is this idea that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity.”

Someone struggling with internalized capitalism might look like any or all of the following:

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  • Putting work before their health and well-being
  • Feeling guilty when resting or participating in a leisure activity
  • Feeling lazy and/or anxious when sick, hurt, or otherwise dealing with personal or physical adversity that delays them from doing their job
  • Feeling that whatever they do it’s never enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is admirable to be a hard worker. But here’s the caveat—when our self-worth and lives suffer because of the overwhelming and relentless demand for productivity, profit, and performance, we need to start reconsidering what’s going on. And here’s the real kicker: this attitude plays right into the hands of the few who are profiting from the many. It’s almost like we have been brainwashed to police ourselves against our self-interest.

Now that we are all on the same page about how we got here, the question is this: How can we overcome a difficult system and dysfunctional thinking?

Honestly, we didn’t get here overnight, and there is not a magic wand to wave that will change things for the better instantly. True change will occur with a blend of systemic and individual tweaks—or overhauls. Okay, it’s really “overhauls” that we need, but I didn’t want to scare anyone so I said “tweaks.”

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the solutions and changes we can make as individuals. Let’s just be frank and put it out there that these problems won’t be fixed only by reminding people to take better care of themselves. Taking personal responsibility for your self-care is part of it, yes, but this runs much deeper than that. We are talking about undoing deeply held beliefs that govern our self-esteem and self-worth.

1. Process Your Emotions

“So, if you’re mad, get mad!” Isn’t that how the song goes? (I’ll Stand by You by the Pretenders.) Finding healthy outlets for our emotions is a key aspect of processing and being able to truly move on.

“Name it to tame it,” is a phrase coined by Dr. Dan Siegel about the power of labeling an emotion to reduce its impact. Examples of this could be journaling or talking things out with someone. Honestly, this step really needs to come first as it is extremely difficult to think clearly when we are feeling very emotional.[6]

2. Be Aware of Negative and Judgmental Self-Talk

Are you staying late at the office and missing time with friends (or your dog) because your internal critic is telling you that if you don’t get this project done, you are a lazy, underperforming blob of an employee? This type of self-talk is not productive or healthy.

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You can overcome this by becoming aware of the story you are telling yourself and the judgment that accompanies it. This is the most important step by far. These stories and criticisms we tell ourselves that keep us working crazy hours and provoke toxic anxiety are the same cockamamie stories that prevent us from taking the time we need to take care of ourselves.

3. Question Your Beliefs

Once you notice the narrative you are telling yourself, take a step back and try to see it for what it is. “Is this really true? Why do I believe that? Is there any evidence to the contrary?”

4. Make New Beliefs

Rewrite your story with what feels right to you. Luckily, we are our own authors, and we get to choose the things we tell ourselves. It doesn’t sound like much, but the power of perspective and authentic positive thinking can be monumental. It’s healthy to evaluate our internal beliefs and self-talk from time to time.

5. Be Clear on What You Want

Be clear on what you want and how you’d like things to be different. Do I want to work a zillion hours a week and then be too tired/anxious/grumpy to do anything else in my life? What are my priorities and does my situation now reflect that?

6. Talk to Your Supervisor

Talk to your supervisor to clarify expectations. Are you holding yourself to implied or self-imposed expectations? Or have they explicitly been set by your employer?

7. Have a Solid Support System

Having a solid support system helps prevent you from being overwhelmed by work anxiety. They can be your friends, family, life coach, psychologist, teammates, social groups—whoever feels supportive, positive, and encouraging.

8. Brutally Assess What You Can and Can’t Control.

This step is important as it dictates the actions you have to choose to move forward. I used to wish I would win the lottery, but the time and energy spent on that didn’t get me anywhere. Changing my work hours, taking some classes, and cutting back some expenses did.

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9. Develop an Action Plan

Develop an action plan based on your findings in #8. It’s not all going to change at once. Start with one small thing, and keep chipping away until you get wherever you want to go.

10. Talk to Your Supervisor

Talk to your supervisor or someone from HR about your concerns and struggles. Find out about your options and any assistance they may be able to offer.

11. Set Boundaries and Limitations.

Just because you can work from home and check your email at 2 am doesn’t mean that you should. Learn to set your boundaries. Limit digital contact. Limit work to work hours and stick to it.

12. Complete One Thing at a Time

We are only neurologically capable of doing one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth and, when attempted, has been shown to take up to 40% longer to complete a task.[7] Don’t waste your precious time and energy doing many things at once. Instead, focus on one task at a time.

13. Be Organized and Timely But Also Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for increased stress and overwhelming work anxiety by putting an unreasonable amount of things on your “to-do” list over a short period of time. Prioritize what needs to be done, and set realistic time frames for completion.

14. Good Enough Is Sometimes Good Enough

Don’t get bogged down in the minutia and cost yourself hours of needless work by re-reading an email 14 times before sending it. Read through it twice and hit send.

15. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

There is a saying I like: “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” I have no idea who originally said it, but they are brilliant, and most of all, correct. Wasting time and energy comparing ourselves never leads us to a good place. Instead, ask yourself if you are doing the best you can given your own set of circumstances.

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16. Take Time to Fill Your Tank

Meditation, yoga, quiet time, exercise, breaks, breathing, quality sleep, good nutrition, and hydration—just to name a few—are all scientifically proven ways to reduce our internal stress and better manage our energy.[8] On top of good self-care habits, taking the time to do whatever it is that fills your individual tank is crucial to feeling less overwhelmed with work anxiety. I frequently ask my clients which car will make it on a cross-country trip: the car you stop and put gas in, checking the oil and tires intermittently, or the car that you just keep driving?

17. Reframing/Changing Perspective

We all get caught in the habit of seeing things from only one perspective. A friend of mine used to always tell me, “there are three sides to every story: yours, theirs and something in the middle.” She was right, and honestly, there are many more sides than that.

Critical coaching moment here: Take a step back and try to think outside the box to see the vast expanse of options available to you. Try not to discount them right off the bat as they might not readily fit into the narrow view or expectation that you previously held. Allow your mind to run free, be creative, and find solutions.

What Organizations Can Do About It

As we mentioned earlier, this problem of being overwhelmed with work anxiety is not one-dimensional. Much of the onus falls on the system itself. Not ready to make the full commitment necessary, many organizations encourage their employees to “take care of themselves” or “prioritize work-life balance” while, at the same time, covertly/overtly making unrealistic demands in workload and time.

The positive side is that there are companies who have truly taken the task of supporting their employees as people with personal and professional lives to heart.[9] These organizations stand at the forefront with fair wages, employing enough staff, and setting realistic work expectations, boundaries, and goals. Some top organizations employ life coaches, psychologists, and other support staff, offer employee wellness programs, encourage good nutrition through free healthy meals at work, provide access to fitness and game rooms, and provide unlimited paid time off, flexible schedules, the ability to work remotely, as well as resources to assist with daycare, legal issues, and in-home care to name a few.

Lastly, solid training for managers and HR in addressing employees as “whole” people and taking some of the onus off of the employee to find their own solutions to problems that stem from the workplace is another critical component to successfully supporting employees.[10]

Final Thoughts

Improving support for people in the workplace is good for everyone. It’s better for people’s health and well-being, it’s better for productivity and making fewer errors, it’s more cost-effective for companies and our healthcare system, and it increases the bottom line for companies.

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As we discussed earlier, the big picture will not change overnight. For now, take control of what you can and evaluate ways to better manage your end of things. If these changes are not enough to make the difference you are looking for, then a change of environment or to a company that holds the same beliefs that you do may be in order.

More Tips on How to Manage Work Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Elisa Ventur via unsplash.com

Reference

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