Stress is commonplace in western societies. A modicum of stress in the workplace can provide a stimulus to motivation and help achieve work tasks and objectives. However, many people visit their doctor and report high levels of stress which are incapacitating and are likely to lead to illness. Stress is not confined to work. Many parents who work and have young families report high levels of stress in trying to balance the competing claims of their spouse, children and workplace.
If you are suffering from stress, there are several steps you can take –
1 Self Affirmation.
Stress drains our energy and undermines our self esteem. In order to combat stress, it is essential to rebuild our self esteem. People under stress tend to focus on things which have gone wrong in their lives. What they fail to appreciate is that everyone can look back at the past and ponder on what might have been. Successful people ruminate on what happened in the past as well, either in their personal life or at work. Rather than dwell on failures or lost opportunities, they concentrate of why things went wrong, with a view to understanding the matter and thereby ensuring it does not happen again.
Everyone, whatever their circumstances, can think of something in their lives of which they can be rightly proud. It may be related to their family, home, car, children, hobbies or work. All of us can also remember something we have done which has brought forth praise or appreciation from another person. Thinking of these things will enable to all of us to realise the value we have added to the lives of other people around us. It also helps us to identify and focus on things we have done which are meritorious. Doing similar things will hopefully bring forth the same welcome effects.
It is up to an individual him/herself to raise their self esteem. It cannot be built up by doctors or medication. Self esteem is a prerequisite for making a contribution to the family, the workplace or society as a whole. If a person thinks he is useless, then he/she is unlikely to make an effort to do anything in life.
So, self esteem is a vital facet of stress management. It gives us the motivation and resolve to face challenges and conquer them.
2 Talk about things.
Although stress is a medical condition, there are invariably one or more problems facing a person which have increased his/her stress levels. If there are many problems facing a person, such that he/she feels overwhelmed, then the first thing to do is make a written list. This simple exercise adds focus and structure to problems. If possible, sort the list by the urgency of the problems, so you can see at a glance when things need to be dealt with.
With respect to each and every problem, a useful starting point is to consider the matter in a calm and neutral environment. If the problem relates to work, it may be best to think about it at home. Alternatively, if there is a problem at home, then a walk round the block may help to put matters in perspective.
We all have different conceptual and intellectual abilities to examine problems and explore solutions. Regardless of these abilities, it is always useful to talk to someone about your problems, real or imagined. Choosing an appropriate person is vitally important. Some men are known to go to a bar or pub and parade their problems to male peers who are in an equally inebriated state. While these peers will invariably take the view that you are right and the other person is wrong, especially if you have just bought a round of drinks, it is rare for practical suggestions to emanate from such dialogues.
Some companies have a Personnel Department and often have counsellors available who deal with stress at work. If so, contacting them is doubly useful. Firstly, they should have some professional training in how to deal with stress and problems at work, and secondly, should be able to speak to other people who may be instrumental in aggravating the stress, provided you give your consent for this to take place.
Many people are blessed with good friends. These friends are invaluable when problems arise. Many of us are reluctant to speak with friends about our problems as we feel that we are imposing on them. This is true, but then again, this is what friends are for. All of us must be able to recall instances when a friend, close of otherwise, confided in us concerning a problem and requested our advice. Well, friendship is based on reciprocity. Although our friends may not be able to provide definitive solutions to problems, the old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved, remains true. The simple exercise of telling a receptive listener about a problem assists us to articulate matters clearly and succinctly. This, in itself, is a benefit and a friend will invariably have something interesting and relevant to say about things.
3 Take a break.
The author regularly visits North Cyprus and spends time in rural areas. For people who live in the northern hemisphere, the winter season can be a contributor to high stress levels. This is not due to the cold, but rather the shortness of the day and the lack of natural sunlight.
If possible, try to take a break in the winter, rather than use up all your annual leave in the summer. When you are on holiday, it is preferable to leave problems of work behind. For many of us, this means we should not take our mobile phone and laptop with us.
If you are on holiday in a warm, sunny climate, then it is important to take advantage of these natural conditions. In other words, taking long walks along the beach is more beneficial than drinking cheap alcohol in the evening.
In many parts of the Mediterranean, old men spend hours each day sitting at tables in outdoor coffee shops. It should be noted that the average age in some establishments will be 80 plus. While their lifestyle may have been rather different from ours in their younger years, this is not the sole reason for their longevity. They are part of a community which respects the modest contribution each person makes to the public good. They realise that for every talented and exceptional individual, there will be a dozen ordinary folk who will live relatively modest and uneventful lives.
The lesson from the coffee shop is that we should learn to value who we are and what we have been given and/or have achieved. Moving beyond this, our ambitions should be realistic and within our capabilities. A happy and contented person does not suffer from undue stress.