My name is Dan and I used to be a London bundle of stress… But now, while there’ll always be times when life is overwhelming, there are stress-busting tricks and tips that helped me cope – and continue to do so.
So what prompted the need to change and triggered a need to manage my wellbeing? Well for me, it wasn’t just one thing. From heading up big projects I was now struggling to find meaningful work as a freelancer… The cost of living was driving me deeper into debt and my flat management company just didn’t manage … My 45 minute commute was now taking well over an hour…
I coped – or thought I did – with all of this but the cracks began to show. And then one night, last minute, I went to see Ruby Wax’s latest show. She talked about Mindfulness, but not in an evangelistic way, but with warmth, honesty and bucket loads of caustic wit and self-depreciating humour. It was a real tonic. I wasn’t alone and there with things, practical things that I could do to cope. I plotted my escape route from London, sort help and bought one of Ruby’s books.
My 14 stress-busting tips
Own your stress
It’s often said that the first step towards overcoming a problem is to admit you have one. It may not even be your problem, just something that’s stressing you out. But only you can choose to let it get to you or take steps to help eliminate the problem’s impact.
Check in daily with yourself
The beauty about this technique is that it’s something you can fit in almost anywhere. Put down your Take a Break or the Metro and think about how your feeling, what you’re worried about and what’s coming up in the day that might impact on your wellbeing. Jot it all down if you can. Think about what’s stressing you out and think of steps to counteract that.
Take good care of yourself
A healthy body can contribute to a healthy mind. We don’t mean strive to be beach body perfect – that’s a whole new bundle of stress. Eat well, sleep well, do some form exercise or activity you enjoy. Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, mindfulness are all activities that will help improve your wellbeing.
Who you gonna call? Stress-busters
If you find yourself getting stressed, try regulating your breathing or taking yourself out of a situation. Here are some simple techniques:
- Breathe in slowly, counting to 7 as you go, then breathe out, this time counting to 11. Repeat this for 5 minutes and several times a day. Now when you’re stressed you’ll be able to manage the nasty physical symptoms.
- If you find yourself getting stressed out, try repeating the same bodily movement. I gently place my index finger on my thumb and begin a slow circular motion, really concentrating on the feelings etc.
- Or you could try Ruby Wax’s 3 minute solution for anxiety
Break it down
Are you worried about an interview or meeting? Think about the main things you want to put across, get there early so you’re not rushing, jot down who you’re meeting, make sure your mobile is charged or you have a printout map. Take time to prioritise your workload, every day. Talk to your boss and pinpoint what the important tasks are.
Can you fix it?
If there are rumours of redundancies this is something that is out of your control, but it is a situation you can manage. You can update your CV and your LinkedIn profile. Talk to someone about redeployment opportunities. Look at your skills gaps and training needs. Contact former colleagues and write speculative letters. Break the problem into chunks and cut down on the stress the whole is causing.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Has your train been delayed or cancelled? Can you drive a train or fix one? Well then, no amount of shouting and moaning will get you there on time. Phone work, think about an alternative route, do any planning or work you can, or just do something to help you relax. Chances are you’re not the only one affected and if you’re worried what your boss will say, ask yourself why you’re working for such a boss?
It’s good to talk
A problem shared is a problem halved or at least reduced. By opening up to a friend, relative or colleague you begin the ‘let it go’ process and instantly have access to a friendly ear who will offer help and advice if you need it. If you’re feeling alone don’t just send a text, follow it up or just make a call.
The doctor will see you now
Have a chat with your doctor, as lots of GP surgeries provide counselling or therapy services on the NHS. And who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? Often this is in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT helps you deal with your current problems by breaking them down into smaller parts and gives you practical ways to help you on a daily basis.
Your workplace may also have a scheme where you can access therapy completely anonymously. There is also free counselling available for specific groups. The Terrence Higgins Trust, for example offers the LGBT community free assessments and sessions.
If not managed, stress can also cause sleepless nights or leave your more open to infection. Stress can also contribute to more serious health problems such as high blood pressure.
Two steps forward, one step back
So you’ve stuffed up. Do you keep stuffing up? Has your stuffing upness increased or decreased? Are you taking steps to not stuff up? Drinking, rowing with a partner, picking your nose… whatever it is, don’t expect too much too soon. You’ve admitted you have a problem and you’re doing something about it. Well done! You’re moving in the right direction.
Move any mountain
We’re not saying you should run away, but is where you’re living causing or contributing to your stress? Could you wipe your debt with a move somewhere cheaper? Would moving nearer friends help? Is there somewhere where you’re more likely to find work or a job that you’d enjoy? Sometimes a change really is as good as a holiday.
Have a ‘me’ party
If it’s all getting too much just treat yourself, not by splashing out the cash but having a day or evening of doing things you like doing – a me party. Cook your favourite food, wallow in a boxset, do something creative… anything that often takes a backseat but that you love.
I have beautiful lips
When you’re feeling a bit low or feeling a bit overwhelmed at work, think about what makes you great, what you’re brilliant at and about your previous successes. It’s easy to focus on the now, what’s going wrong, so write these down and revisit them. If it’s a work related problem, look at your CV and you might suddenly recall a similar situation and a solution.
Switch it off
I have a friend who every now and again gets upset because he sees people he knows posting pics and comments of the fabulous things they’ve been up to. Often it’s not his close friends and I point out that geography and last-minute opportunities might be contributing factors. People can’t be considerate or invite everyone all of the time!
Facebook creates friendships and ties that might not exist in the real world, or at least have a shorter lifespan. If their trip to Peacehaven Wimpy is causing you distress, organise your own events or just come off Facebook for a bit.
24/7 Take away
There you have it – some suggestions to help bust that stress. Remember, they’re just suggestions. Everyone is different, but you’re not alone. I still have bad days. Normally when I don’t take the time to take a step back and consider a situation and how to approach it. And one day I might even finish Ruby’s book.