By Dr. Michael Sinclair, City Psychology Group
This first step to managing stress is all about identifying your stress triggers – which isn’t as easy as it sounds!
“Stress triggers” are not always the situations or events around us, and can take the shape of our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, including such things as worry, procrastination and avoidance tactics.
The truth is that we cannot always prevent or control the undesirable events within us (like our stress response itself) or around us (like our unforgiving boss or our pressing work demands) but we can and we have a choice about how we manage ourselves in the face of such stressful events.
Stress reducing behaviour is possible. It often involves ‘pushing back’ on demands, implementing more effective problem solving and communication strategies.
· Reduce information overload:
Make a commitment to ignore your Blackberry. You can still check it at 30 minute intervals, but it will reduce the time that you are distracted and more stressed out by it in between.
· Learn to compromise:
To improve the health of a relationship, be willing to try some flexibility, particularly when requesting flexibility or change from the other person.
· Express your feelings and thoughts:
If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.
· Practice assertive communication:
By communicating up front, stressful situations can be prevented. If you are working towards a deadline and a co-worker lingers at your office door, state up front that you have a deadline and only have five minutes to chat.
· Learn how to say “no” (without feeling guilty):
Assertiveness about your limits in both your personal or professional life can do wonders for stress prevention. Accepting too much additional responsibility and “biting off more than you can chew” results in high pressure situations and can be counterproductive in the long run.
· Cut down your to-do list:
Instead of checking off as many tasks as possible, try crossing certain items off your list that aren’t absolutely necessary, or assign them to the bottom or a secondary, less important list.
· Set time-orientated goals rather than task-orientated goals
Try to allocate time to the tasks that you set yourself, that way you will feel like you have accomplished something, rather than thinking you only have achieved something when everything you have to do is complete – which will be never happen!
· Improve time management:
Poor time management is a leading culprit of stress.
Staying cool, calm and collected becomes difficult when one is overextended. Taking breaks, planning, delegating and careful scheduling is key to effective stress management.
· Alter your environment:
Survey your immediate surroundings and day-to-day activities that are related to stress. Whether it is a congested (but faster) route home, shopping at a crowded department store, or watching the news in the morning, try developing alternatives (or simply eliminate the activity if possible).
Dr. Michael Sinclair is a consultant psychologist and clinical director at the City Psychology Group. Consultant to a number of occupational health departments in the City of London, he is the author of Fear and Self-Loathing in the City: a guide to keeping sane in the square mile and The Little CBT Book: a step by step guide to gaining control of your life.