Whether you’re job hunting or trying to deal with the pressures of a new or existing workplace, stress can get in the way of feeling and working at you best. These tips could help!
It can be difficult to manage stress, especially when external factors and circumstances that stress you out can be outside of your control. For the worries you can’t do anything about right now, it can help to work through how you feel about them, to approach them in a sustainable way for your mental health.
We’ve compiled a few tips to help you shift your perspective in moments of stress and unplug from the daily pressures of work and job hunting.
What is stress?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, stress can be defined as:
“our body’s response to pressure. It is often triggered when we experience something new or unexpected that threatens our sense of self or when we feel we have little control over a situation.”
Reasons for feeling stress can differ from person to person and so can the most effective ways of managing stress levels. What works for someone you know might not work for you – and that’s OK! It’s a good idea to try a few things out (one at a time works best for us!) to see what has the biggest impact on how you feel, and your approach!
7 top tips to try out for managing your stress levels:
1. Breathe through stressful moments
Stress triggers the body to release hormones like adrenaline, the ‘flight or fight’ hormone, which makes your heart beat faster as your body gets ready to deal with the perceived danger. This physical reaction also makes you feel more stressed and it can be a self-fulfilling cycle.
Breathing exercises can really help deal with stress in the moment! Slowing your breathing down lowers your heart rate and helps you be in a place to deal with the issue calmly. Try taking 3 deep breaths – or inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 4 seconds (square breathing). There are lots more combinations to try out to find what works best for you. Mind has lots more exercises to try.
2. Practice gratitude to ground you
When we feel under pressure at work, or feel stressed out by something, it’s easy to get into a fatalistic mindset. You can experience negative thoughts or beliefs, like ‘nothing is going right’ or ‘I’m a failure’. But it’s important to remember the good things in your life, which stress distracts us from. These can help you keep a clear perspective and ground you.
By expressing gratitude, we can identify a few things in our lives that we are grateful for. It can be as simple as being grateful that the sun is shining, a glass of clean water or even a friendly hello. You could try noting these down in a gratitude journal – so you can look back on them in future moments of stress.
3. Sleep helps you function through stress
Sleep is medicine for the brain and the body. If you are currently under a lot of stress at work or in life, being tired on top of it is not an ideal situation. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is the daily recommended sleep for adults to function at their best, and getting more sleep is a proven way to help manage stress.
If you’re struggling with sleep, there are a few things you can try. A bath or shower before bed could help you relax and switch off. Some people sleep better in cooler temperatures – so try cracking a window or sleeping with a fan. Try to give yourself a break from screens before turning in. Many people find moving their phones and devices out of the bedroom also helps sleep, and keeps the room darker. Try some of the techniques in this Sleep Better guide from the Mental Health Foundation.
4. Exercise helps you cope with stress
Committing to a strict exercise regime can be overwhelming and often we never know where to begin! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and sometimes setting yourself ambitious exercise goals just gives you more reasons to worry or criticize yourself.
You could start off by trying to get out on a 10-minute walk around the block or even better, somewhere in nature. Or, think about the parts of exercise you enjoy. It could be time to reflect outside, or it could be losing yourself in competition, or playing as part of a team. Understanding the parts you enjoy and focusing on that is a good way to build a habit around exercise in a positive way, instead of being another chore for your to do list!
5. Visualization keeps you focused on positives
We hear about visualization working for top sportspeople and athletes – who work to envision themselves succeeding at their chosen sport: whether that’s lifting the trophy at the end of the match or hitting the ball in the perfect spot. Visualization is a great tool to use in your day to day work life, you could try imagining yourself closing that deal, sending that proposal or finally pitching that idea to your boss or stakeholders. If you’re job hunting, visualize what success looks like. We tend to think of all the ways something can go wrong but if you visualize success and positivity, you can begin to shift that thought to, what if it goes right.
This can really help build confidence when you’re applying or interviewing for somewhere – but remember to be kind to yourself throughout the process. Take breaks to breathe or go for walks if the process gets too intense or you feel overwhelmed.
6. Goal setting helps you work through stress
This may sound intimidating but setting 1 or 2 simple and achievable tasks for each day can help you break apart big projects – whether that’s a presentation or report at work, or preparing to apply or interview for a new role!
There are lots of productivity tools that can help with planning your day, week, month and year – and can help you split tasks into different categories to manage them. If you’re more analogue, try using a notebook or post it note to get all your tasks down on paper.
Stress can make us feel like we aren’t making progress or working hard or fast enough. Often that’s not the case – you’re just busy and having to reprioritize tasks. Writing them down and ticking them off once completed can give you a tangible sense of accomplishment – and can also serve as a reminder that you are accomplishing things, even if they weren’t the projects you were most excited to work on.
We love Todoist’s productivity method quiz – which helps you decide on time and project management techniques that work for your brain type and role. A great one to trial if you have lots on your to do list is Get Things Done.
7. Unplug from sources of stress
Being constantly connected to our screens can be detrimental to mental health in all sorts of ways. The light of your screen can make it more difficult to sleep, notifications from work can make it hard to switch off at the end of the day, and social media feeds can make us feel like imposters or failures. Your phone might help you feel more in control, able to keep an eye on things or your competition, but even when we’re having fun online (or feel like we are) we’re still working our minds and stimulating them.
Try to take 10-15 minutes each day where you completely switch off: whether you’re on that much-needed walk, taking a nap, reading a few chapters of your book, journaling or even cooking yourself a wholesome meal. See how you feel with time away from a screen – and if it’s something that has a positive effect on you, try building up those intervals to a detox hour or evening or even weekend!
As people’s stress levels can vary, it is also important to note that you need to find whatever works for you and your lifestyle. Finding simple ways to de-stress can help reduce and manage stress. Remember to not overcomplicate or compare your ‘self-care’ routine with others – as this can look different for each individual.
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