(adapted from “The little online book of stress management”)
Exercise, like any stress management technique, can become a habit. Just as a change in behaviour can indicate the presence of stress, so a positive change in behaviour can help to reduce stress.
Try this practical stress management technique. List 10 changes you could make to help beat stress, for example, have a healthy snack at work each morning, or park 10 minutes further away from the office and walk instead. Then pick two of the stress management strategies on your list, and pledge to do them consistently for the next month. By then, hopefully you will find that they have become habits, a natural part of your life that you don’t even have to think about. You will find that it was worth all the effort, and you will be ready to pick the next stress strategy or two from your list
Time management as a stress management technique
In today’s hectic world, stress is often caused by the build up of time pressures and it can adversely affect our workplace stress. We have shorter deadlines and longer working hours, spend time commuting further to work, and then when we get home frantically rush around trying to cope with domestic responsibilities. We can’t create extra hours in the day, but by evaluating how you currently spend your time, and learning a few simple time management techniques, you could make better use of the time that you have, and ease the pressure.
Time management allows you to plan and organise your life so as to give yourself more space and opportunity. It involves planning, delegating, setting goals and not wasting time doing unnecessary things or worrying about things you can do nothing about. Think carefully about how you spend your time. Do you really need to go to that meeting, or be copied into all those emails? Set blocks of time aside to deal with specific things. Avoid distractions. Be ruthless with dealing with paper and administration. Don’t procrastinate.
Long and short term goals to reduce stress
You may be wondering why this is a stress management technique. List the different areas of your life, for instance, work and home, and then break them down into smaller categories. Think about what you want to achieve in the immediate future, but also in the medium and the long term. For example, in the immediate future you might have a list of things you want to get done in the next week or so at work, such as “finish report” or “clear desk of all admin”. In the medium term, think about what you would like to do in the next six months to a year, such as “attend management training course”. In the longer term, your goal might be “to get promoted to senior management level”.
When setting goals, it’s important that they are achievable and realistic. By all means set yourself long term as well as short term goals, as then you will know what you are aiming for in the future, but you need to break your long term goal down into smaller steps. This way, you will be able to measure your progress as you reach each milestone which will keep you motivated.
Now you have written your list of goals, why don’t you take a few minutes to relax, sit down with your lists and start to use your imagination. Practice imagining what it will be like to have achieved all of those goals, short, medium and long term. Try to picture yourself after you have achieved them.
How will it be? How have things changed? Don’t just create a visual picture and focus on how you look, but use all your senses. Maybe you feel different or even sound different; perhaps other people respond to you differently. Use your imagination to create a powerful vision of what life will be like when you have reached your goals.
Having well defined goals and a belief in your ability to achieve them will already start to help you manage stress and improve your stress management techniques.
Progressive muscle relaxation as a stress management technique
Your doctor or a professional stress management trainer might teach you some exercises which are known as the progressive muscle relaxation technique. This means that you very gently tense and relax every muscle in your body, bit by bit, starting at your head or toes, and working to the other end of your body, all the while breathing in and out slowly.
This exercise can produce enjoyable physical feelings of relaxation and can be a very effective strategy for relieving stress, however it is not a good idea to try it if you have had any muscular-skeletal problems or injuries in the past. If you are in any doubt, then you should consult your doctor.