By: Jane E. Shersher, LSW & Founder of Counselors Autonomous
How Can You Reduce the Effects of Daily Stress & Keep Burnout at Bay?
Stress is meant to keep us safe from harm as a defense mechanism. It’s great if we’re trying to outrun a wildebeest, but not so useful while dealing with everyday life stressors. Stress can surprise us by being overwhelming or just by being irritatingly present in a constant low-grade form. Ether way, stress can wear on our wellness, satisfaction, and productivity over time if left unattended. In order to reduce even small amounts of stress, try to focus on maintaining a balance in your life between work, family and your personal needs. Maintaining a support network of friends and coworkers, having adequate sleep hygene, and keeping up a relaxed and positive outlook is important. Easier said than done right? Well here are some quick and easy tips that can help you to get there sooner rather than later…
1. Identify the warning signs of stress
Stress can show up in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Pinpointing stress can be tricky at times so identifying the warnings signs can ease the process of nipping stress in the butt before it overwhelms your lifestyle:
According to the American Institute of Stress, some symptoms of stress may include:
• Anxiety, irritability
• Depressed feelings
• Social withdrawal
• Difficulty sleeping
• Difficulty concentrating
• Muscle tension
• Using alcohol or drugs to cope
Once symptoms such as these are identified, conquering stress can become an increasingly simplified process. As soon as the impact of stress is identified, what’s left is working backwards toward the source of stress. What is working “backwards” exactly? It’s basically following the breadcrumbs. By solving the symptoms of stress proactively, finding (and processing) the cause may either become clear and easy or less important because your coping strategies have become so powerful. Either way, here are some tips for securing practical moments of peace and self-reflection throughout the day.
2. Smile at yourself in the morning
When you get ready for work in the morning or are brushing your teeth, smile at your reflection in the mirror. Although it may feel silly, this action is not only serving as positive reinforcement, but is also actively releasing endorphins that help to support happiness in your brain. The world becomes a more jubilant place when you are your own cheerleader.
3. Keep a Gratitude Log
Studies have shown that expressing gratitude on a daily basis can actively combat depressive symptoms and can help with productivity. Get a small journal and start your day by writing 3 things that you are grateful for about yourself, 3 things that you are grateful for about your work life, and 3 things that you are grateful for about your personal life. Tracing back over the span of weeks of entries, you can see a long trail of successes that help to release tension, celebrate the positive attributes of your life and efforts, and encourage you to continue the good fight toward personal and professional growth.
4. Focus on developing your emotional intelligence
Decision-making, time management, healthy and effective communication patterns, anger management, being assertive, flexible, trusting, and accountable are all attributes that help to support a well-rounded lifestyle. Having high emotional intelligence will encourage you to establish and maintain helpful levels of empathy that will help you to relate to and connect with individuals around you that are within your professional network and community. Overall, emotional intelligence helps you to focus on responding rather than reacting, which is a very empowering way to get what you want and to also serve the needs of others around you simultaneously.
5. Be Mission-Driven
Pursue your passion regularly: this often serves as the strongest engine for retaining forward momentum. It is critical to ask yourself, “why am I doing what I am doing?” on a regular basis.
Keep your goals clear and be respectful of other people’s need for productivity whenever you can: both can be equal priorities in order to maintain that healthy balance.
6. Lean into Delegation & Accountability
Think of a coworker, friend, spouse, technology tool, or application to hold you accountable whenever possible. Report to them about exercising every day or studying for that license exam. Tell them what you put in your morning smoothie to have someone to report to. Riding on the repercussion of the shame wave (of disappointing a trusted colleague) can be a powerful tool to utilize.
Automate processes such timing tasks and scheduling short burst interval exercises in between chunks of work whenever you can. Hacks such as making appointments automatically by linking your calendar to services like “You Can Book Me” and including the link to your profile in your email signature (that way if someone wants to meet with you, tell them to reserve a spot on your calendar by clicking the link that automatically generates with each email and reflects when you are available) can save you a ton of accumulated time and energy. Appointments are automatically scheduled in your calendar passively without your participation and you can reschedule whenever you want. Hacks like these are valuable because little jobs creep up on us- we may think that an email doesn’t take much out of us, but did you know that the average number of simple email exchanges between parties agreeing on a time and place to meet is typically 7? If you cut that hassle out you can meditate in that time saved instead! Make tools work for you not the other way around!
7. Remember you have a body attached to that workload:
Take conscious deep breaths in and out and keep a solid spinal sitting and standing posture whenever you can with your heart forward and shoulders down and back (imagine a poll pulling the top of your head and an arrow coming out of each shoulder to help with posture). This simple breathing and posture exercise will help to calm your central nervous system down and this in turn will help you to be more productive in a controlled and non-hectic / reactive way. Try setting a reminder to check in on yourself every two hours. If breathing isn’t your thing, you can take a minute to run up a couple flights of stairs or stretch your body, especially your lower back, hamstrings, and calves if you do a lot of sitting. It is ideal to do all three (stairs, stretching, breathing) throughout the day or to alternate every hour if possible.
If you can implement each of these 6 steps on most days, you will be better off in the long run. Your mind and body will be healthier and your relationships will no doubt be more supportive, thus more conducive to your personal and professional progress over time.
The American Institute of Stress. (n.d.) Stress Effects. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/stress-effects/
Bradberry, T. (2015, January 21). Why You Need Emotional Intelligence to Succeed in Business. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241998
Iskold, A. (2015, May 13). 50 Quick Productivity and Business Tips for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245962