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ADVICE FROM A CITY PSYCHOLOGIST: How to change your behaviour and pull back from severe stress

By Dr. Michael Sinclair, City Psychology Group

Dr Michael Sinclair

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.

Comments (9)

  1. Don’t under-rate procrastination. Some of the best work I do is that I’ve ignored until the last possible moment and done in a screaming, blind panic. At least that way the stress is felt as momentary lightening flashes instead of long periods of nagging anxiety.

  2. agree with jd. Oftentimes you procrastinate something and eventually it turns out you should not do it or should have not done it anyway.

    We must procrastinate for a reason otherwise this human trait would have been eliminated by evolution.

    I listen to Anthony Robbins and Brian Tracy CDs – the best way to get rid off stress and switch yourself into action mode.

  3. Change your environment.

    If you have a top-notch education and good skills why would you tolerate a job / lifestyle that stressed you out?

    Sometimes it is down to the individual but more often than not people hang on far too long in jobs which are not good. (I know from experience)

  4. stress is different for certain people definitely. Some seem to stress about small things and plan non important elements of their life in advance. When someone does that, they get so stressed very quickly. I tend to take each day as it comes, know you cannot change this world and do you best in your job an enjoy it. In trading perspective…when you trade I think it’s good to do as much preparation/research before you trade, this way you stress less and have more confidence trade will work despite all the volatility/noise. Then again, a good banter, light hearted jokes in the face of all this gloom in the market is best way to remain sane. Helps if you have a good team.

  5. I have an idea on how to remove stress. Get yourself out of the lame pointless banking industry in london and move to the country.

  6. 1 word – drugs. I feel much better arriving in the office slightly spiffy….

  7. Toker – an interesting point. *I have toked for ca.25 years in a high pressure City job. Never been silly. Always restricted to weekends and take regaular exercise, eat well, happily marrried and stay tuned in to the mainstream (no matter how mad it sometime is). I have been known to “extend” and frrday easily becomes saturday becomes sunday becomes monday and so on. Now into my 50s and my toking is very occasional. One thing I do know – I would never have held up with the pressure as long as I have if it were not for the healthy escape that toking offered.

  8. Fundamentally different situations:
    “arriving in the office slightly spiffy”
    “Always restricted to weekends”

    Fundamentally incompatible sentences?
    “stay tuned in to the mainstream”
    “known to “extend” and frrday easily becomes saturday becomes sunday becomes monday and so on”

  9. I would suggest to do yoga as a means to slow down temporarily…

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