In last month’s blog, we discussed how prolonged periods of stress can lead to burnout, which can negatively impact both your physical and mental well being. Given that there may be a measure of stress in your life beyond your control, there are ways of learning to manage and navigate stress in a healthy way so that it does not impact your health. Below are some starting points on coping with stress – as with any skill, these takes active practice, time and patience to incorporate into your life, but they are well worth the effort!
- Add routine and structure to your life. Juggling multiple priorities with competing demands on your time and energy can invariably lead to stress, with unexpected challenges adding more chaos to the mix. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, a good place to start would be to create a schedule for your regular tasks to add some discipline and structure to your daily life. Predictable, familiar routines can instill some calm and help you remain organized and productive, while freeing up some mental bandwidth to deal with unforeseen issues.
- Set realistic expectations. While it is commendable to set high ambitions, having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, stress, and anxiety. Challenging yourself and your limits can lead to growth and self-improvement, but knowing your own limits, and maintaining them can ensure that you have sustained success without burning yourself out in the process. It is important to always consider the context of your current circumstances, and what you can realistically accomplish within your current means, which can change over time.
- Celebrate the small victories. Unmet goals can be a huge source of stress to many people, especially when a lot of time and energy have been dedicated to their pursuit. However, even if you haven’t accomplished your final objective, it’s important to acknowledge the growth you’ve demonstrated, and the lessons learnt in pursuit of your goals. Celebrating even small milestones can help you stay positive and provide reassurance of the fact that you’re still making good progress towards your goals.
- Re-write your internal narrative. We are often our own worst critics, especially when we let our inner monologue go unchecked. Harsh self-criticism, self-doubt and assuming worst-case scenarios can fuel anxiety and stress. When you catch yourself being hard on yourself, try not to feel even worse about it – instead, follow-up the negative self-talk with a positive perspective. Replace thoughts like “I am a failure” with “I am learning” and be as kind to yourself as you would have been when providing comfort to a loved one.
- Engage in enjoyable and relaxing activities. The importance of rest, relaxation and recreation in mitigating stress cannot be overstated. Engaging in activities that bring you joy can provide a welcome distraction from your worries, lift your spirits, and infuse positivity in your life. Practicing self-care helps both your mind and body recover from stress and make you more resilient when dealing with stressful life situations.
- Practice gratitude. When faced with overwhelming circumstances, it is helpful to take stock of all the things in your life you are grateful for. Using gratitude as a tool to reframe your perspective on life can help alleviate stress and anxiety, and over time can help you approach struggles and setbacks with a more resilient mindset. Whether it’s maintaining a gratitude journal or engaging in quiet moments of self-reflection at the beginning or end of each day, practicing gratitude and improve your outlook on life.
- Create and lean on your support system. The people you surround yourself with greatly impact your life. The best of them can help you cope with stress by being there for you during trying times, exerting calm in the face of chaos, or creating a safe space for you to express yourself. Steer clear of people who add drama, anxiety and negativity to your life and drain your energy. Instead, seek out people who support, encourage, and motivate you, and in whose presence, you feel comfortable being vulnerable. Reach out to them when you feel overwhelmed – even if it is just to vent!