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How to manage the stress in your life

While stress may be an inevitable part of our personal and work lives, there are signs you can look out for and some easy ways to manage and reduce its impact. 

03 June 2020 | 5 min read
Ben Massey

Humans are programmed to stress; it’s how we survive – think fight or flight. But it’s fair to say that currently we are living through a very strange and unique period in our lives. We’re busy enough at the best of times without the added pressure of COVID-19, which, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), just under two-thirds of 16 to 69-year olds surveyed say they are being most affected by boredom, stress and anxiety and an inability to make any plans for the future.

Look out for the signs  

A very important aspect of maintaining resilience is identifying what stress feels like to you. Whether this is physical or psychological, recognising when your body is entering the ‘fight or flight’ mode is important.

Changes to look out for include an increased heart rate, body temperature, headaches and muscle tension. Or, perhaps you are more emotional or irrational than usual, or struggling to concentrate – these are ways in which the emotional part of our brain, our limbic system, responds to stress.

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Positive psychology

We humans do tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life - like a disagreement with a colleague, another driver beeping their horn at you, or when a piece of work needs to be reworked. And we simply can’t control what other people are doing, the state of the economy or things happening on the news. These are natural concerns and shouldn’t be ignored, but it’s likely that we’ll focus in on these sorts of negatives rather than the proactive, positive aspects that also might have occurred. 

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Stay focused

Be honest, how many of you spend time flicking between emails, doing the washing, phone calls and dipping in and out of social media while also trying to do your work? This type of multitasking can be inefficient and, in the end, will add to your stress. Our brains are wired to work on one task at a time. In a recent article we published, Part 2: Mental Health Week we referred to a recent neuroscience research study that suggests multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%! 

One solution is to try rewarding yourself after each task you finish - take a 5 to 10-minute break to do something else that you enjoy, this will give you an opportunity to refocus before starting your next project.

And arghhh, the news...

It's natural to want to be informed, but over exposure to the news, especially negative news, can become all-consuming and damaging for your mental health. A good way to prevent this is to limit the amount you watch or listen to, and/or the amount of time you spend on social media. 

zzZZ

According to Matthew Walker in his book ‘Why we sleep’ there is not a single process in the brain, or a single organ within the body that is not optimally enhanced by sleep, it truly is the foundation of good health. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to disrupt our sleep patterns, but it’s also very easy to put them right.

  1. Ensure where you sleep is dark and cool as this is an easy way to promote better sleep.
  2. Our favourite electronic devices each emit blue light which can disrupt our bodies release of melatonin (sleep hormone) which can prevent us feeling tired - try spending 30 – 60 minutes less per day on your phone, tablet or watching TV.
  3. Be mindful of when you drink stimulants like caffeine. Did you know that the half-life of caffeine is between 5 – 7 hours? So this means it could remain in your blood stream for up to 14 hours - applying an ‘early-afternoon’ caffeine curfew might be worth considering.

We'll explore these topics further in our next article, 'Sleep - the foundation of good mental health'.

In summary

None of us ever really knows what the future holds and some things are simply out of our control, but managing stress isn't. Building resilience is all about managing your energy levels, the more energy you have, the more resilient you can be.

If you think RPS can help you and your team manage your stress and overall wellbeing, please don't hesitate to get in touch with Ben at, ben.massey@rpsgroup.com.