Everybody talks about stress nowadays and there seems to be many easy solutions to get rid of it: eat balanced food, get enough sleep, meditate, exercise, take a break, etc. Sounds easy, but how come there’s still so much stress that the next burnout is practically on our doorstep? It’s probably because we are treating our stress as a symptom, not as a problem itself.
We would like to take you through a 5 step process of how to manage stress that will help you in the long term. By addressing stress as it is, not as it manifests, you will master your stressors like a pro.
Should you follow these 5 steps?
If you are doing everything you can think of to manage stress and still find yourself burnt out, these 5 steps will help you identify your stressors and find appropriate ways to manage them. This doesn’t mean you should stop your healthy and self-care habits! You can use this guide as a compass to get the most out of your habits or to develop new strategies you can add to your stress management. We will start at the beginning, so don’t to worry if you’re new to managing stress!
How does this 5 step process on how to manage stress work?
This 5 step process will help you to manage stress by understanding how it’s constructed. When you see things from different respective, you give them a new meaning that will feel different in your body. You are going to learn how to operate with this perspective. We will introduce you to practical skills that will help you to master your stress and let you enjoy in every activity, task and work ahead of you.
1. Recognize what stress you out
We all experience multiple stressors simultaneously most of the time and it’s hard to keep managing all of them. As stress slowly builds up over time, we adapt to it, accept it. This sometimes means we don’t even recognize it anymore, because it becomes something normal, something that’s part of us. This will only lead to burnout. And the worst thing is, we start to feel worse every day, but don’t even know why anymore. This is the crucial moment when you should stop and take care of your overworked body.
Sometimes stressors are clear, but there are times when it feels like nothing’s really wrong, it just doesn’t feel right, you’re not alright anymore. You did your job, but end up wondering if you could do it better. You made New Year resolutions that you already gave up on or still didn’t start with. There seems to be always something you still haven’t done yet and are still hanging over your head. Recognize your thoughts. What you stress about in your head, stresses you out outside of it too.
2. Listen to your body and answer
In times like ours, it’s practically impossible to avoid stress. But managing stress can go a long way.
When you feel stressed, your body is telling you to slow down. If you get anxious, get a headache or feel tired, listen to your body. Your body is sending you warning signs all the time, but you forgt about yourself. If you get a headache, you can take a painkiller, sure. But also try to listen to the message your body is sending you with this headache. Just stop at that moment, take a breath and get in touch with yourself. What do you need right now?
We often recognize what is wrong but not what is or can be right. So when you say “x is stressing me”, don’t stop there. Continue with the solution, for example: writing this job report is stressing me, but a nice scented hot bath would feel perfect now to take the edge off. You may come up with a list of excuses why you shouldn’t take a break, but that’s exactly why you must. You can’t be productive if you’re exhausted, stressed out and overwhelmed. Take one step at the time. We will talk about how much there is to do later in the next step. And this right here is a principle that can help you manage stress. First, a hot bath (or something that you need at that moment), and only then you move to the next thing.
Doing everything at once and doing it without breaks causes stress, and let’s be honest, it rarely makes you get things done well anyway. You will be able to do things well when you feel good and healthy and only then will you be able to enjoy your accomplishments and productivity.
3. Turn work into fun
First, let’s take a look at our perspectives and constructs. We consider grocery shopping a task, but shopping for clothes or new electronics is fun. Washing dishes is work, but taking a shower is relaxing. Why? It’s because we made it so. All of the shopping – for food, toilet paper, shoes, a new watch or phone – is shopping. Both – washing dishes and washing your body – is washing. What’s the difference? The meaning we put onto things.
So you’ll think: “washing my body feels good because of the warm water and nice smelling soap, but washing dishes is boring” or “getting a new phone is exciting, because I will have so many good experiences with it, but buying food is always the same and boring”. And you’re right; everything you think is your reality because you believe it. But does it really have to be like that? If you appreciate feeling good and enjoy new things, such as buying new stuff and taking care of yourself to feel cozy and joyful, you can turn your tasks into fun and feel good a lot more! It’s a win-win situation; you will get everything done and have a good time. But how does this theory apply to a specific situation?
How to use a new perspective to make work fun
Now, if you enjoy taking a bath or a shower, because this means a relaxing time for you, make washing dishes the same. When you wash dishes, this can also be “you time”. Turn your favorite music up and dance or sing along, buy a nice smelling detergent to enjoy the scents, make a fun system for washing different items and put them together in a pattern that will give you satisfaction to look at.
You see, the possibilities are endless. Think about your joys (smells, organizing, music, singing, etc.) and incorporate them into your tasks. You won’t think of it as a task if you will enjoy it and you won’t have a hard time to get things done.
Sprinkle this principle of joy over everything
This principle goes for everything. If you go grocery shopping, change your routine: go to new shopping malls, buy new food, or try out a new shampoo. You can take a friend to make it more fun, or listen to your favorite music. If you go on a relaxing walk, ride your bike, go running, take a walk with a friend, do things in-between: mail your letters, stop by the bank, throw out your trash, check your mailbox, buy those batteries you needed for a while… You see, you will go on out for fun, and those small tasks in-between won’t even be tasks, because you will do it in-between while doing something you enjoy.
As you will do this, you will realize you’ve done so much and won’t even believe it. You did all the chores, did all the work, and you feel great. It’s because you did things you like and enjoy, and integrated the work in these activities, or even turned them into fun!
4. Keep up
When you have something to do, whether to take a shower, to clean your house or answer your emails, just go with it. When you get an email, answer it. You probably read it anyway, so if you answer right away, it will only take a few moments and you’re done. In case you don’t, you will have to read it again later, answer it, and it will burden you until you do it. If you are home, listening to some relaxing music, don’t stop, answer your email while enjoying your time.
If you like to separate your work and free time, then schedule a time in the day when you will do everything you haven’t done yet that day. This will only be a burden for a short period of time. You will know you are going to do it at 5 p.m., for example, so you won’t have to worry about it during the day, and you will take care of everything at once. This also works if you haven’t tried the 3. step yet or it’s not useful for your situation.
Learn to enjoy your hobbies and tasks. Stop seeing them as a burden but a necessity that more or less you do for you in one way or another. If you find a little joy in everything, you will reduce your stress levels significantly.
5. Stress express
It sounds like a summon and it kind of is. When you express your tensions, you let them out, get rid of them. You can do that in so many ways; pick the one you will ENJOY! Talk about it to a therapist or a friend, write about it, dance or singe it out, chose an exercise that will help you release frustrations and stress.
Expressing stress is not the same as calming down and relaxing. The difference is, that when you express your feelings, you get in touch with them. You recognize your frustrations, tensions and built up stress, and you work with it. Either you express it with art (writing, painting, playing an instrument), with physical activity or any other way you can think of.
Things like meditation, yoga, massage, mindfulness, getting enough sleep and taking supplements for stress, magnesium for example, of course, will also help you a lot with stress management in at least two ways: you will relax after a stressful day and when you’re relaxed, stress won’t affect you as much.
A combination of expressing stress and calming yourself down is a recipe for managing stress skillfully.
In our societies, there are always these expectations that push you to dare for more; to do more, to have more, to reach for more, to be more. Use this new perspective we’ve learned and do this for you, instead for others’ expectations. Do more for you, be more for you. Dare to stop when you’re tired and take of yourself. To be even better when you feel rested and healthy. Allow yourself to enjoy every day’s activities and dare to feel great in every situation life gives you. Dare to take stress as a challenge that brings you happiness instead of a burnout. Dare to manage stress and let yourself feel free.
In these times, we have so much work to do, so many expectations to fulfill and there will always be something more to reach, to do, to expect. In this article, we talk about perspective. You now know how to manage stress by starting to see stressors as something you can transform into something positive. You now know how to express your worries and calm them down. And most importantly, you know how to take care of yourself.
We would like to invite you to see yourself through the same glasses as you learned to see your stress. Look at how much you have done and give yourself credit for it. Choose to see what you have done and how far you have come. Instead of thinking what else there’s to do, think about it how much challenges and joys are coming, because you can master stress now.
Tell yourself this doesn’t have to feel hopeless and exhausting, because these are problems you can solve. They are stressors you can manage. And from now one, all the activities and tasks are meant for you to enjoy.
Do you worry you might be a procrastinator? Perhaps you’re in need of this