While we wrap up this year’s #StressAwarenessMonth, it is time to draw some conclusions for ourselves.
As we mentioned in our previous article, being aware of your stress and understanding it is the first and most important step in tackling it. But now that we know how our stressful experiences might look like – by recognizing the causes and triggers and by observing how our body and mind respond to stress – we can create our personal toolkits with tactics that work best for us.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Before we start assembling our perfect toolbox, there is one tiny rule:
Unhealthy coping mechanisms are not allowed to enter ✋🏻
I know it’s a real bummer, but it is what it is…
Examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms include stress eating, procrastination, social isolation, impulsive shopping, drug and/or alcohol use. Even though they can be best providers of instant stress relief, in long term, they have only negative consequences. So from now on, no more snacking, no more pushing people away, no more mañanas, no more suppressing stress with a nice t-shirt you probably don’t even need.
Healthy coping mechanisms, on the other hand, such as meditation, physical activity (e.g., walking, exercising), seeking professional help and/or social support can take some time before you see the results but have longer lasting positive impact on the mental health.
Stress Management Tactics
Okay! Now that we got our primary rule covered, let’s dive deeper into what we can include in our toolkit.
The key to finding your go-to tactics is experimenting! Try them all, adjust them to your lifestyle and, most importantly, be patient and kind to yourself when expecting and observing the results.
1. Relaxation Techniques 🧘🏻
Relaxation techniques can take many forms. Uniting them all is the focus on in-the-moment state of being and state of mind – your body, breathing, thoughts, feelings.
Being born and raised on the shore of the Caspian Sea, I have always found the sea soothing and relaxing. Hence, whenever I feel anxious or overwhelmed at work, I take 15-20 minutes to recharge – I wear my headphones, turn on the sound of waves and just breathe. It feels so much better when you go back to “real life” with a clearer and calmer mind.
Aside from relaxation to music/sounds, other techniques you can experiment with are
- Mindfulness meditation
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
2. Nutrition 🥑
It is definitely not the first time you hear this, but here we go again…
You are what you eat!
By balancing diet with healthy and nutritious food, you will also feel much better about yourself, and anxiety and stress levels will also drop.
One way of doing it is reducing daily/weekly coffee consumption ☕. It can be quite challenging, especially when there are 9AM calls we are not always very excited about. Nevertheless, how many of us have felt anxious, jittery and even experienced shaking hands after having one or two cups of coffee (if not more)?
However, to make it easier and more realistic, for one week, you can start by counting how much coffee in total you consume, and during the following weeks, reduce the consumption by one cup every week. To help your body adapt to changes, that one cup of coffee can be replaced by other healthier beverages – water, tea, ginger shot, fresh juices and so on. Does it sound less terrifying now?
Other examples of balancing the diet include reducing junk food, alcohol and nicotine consumption.
3. Physical Activity 🏄🏻 ♀️
In addition to nutrition, exercising is also a key player in stress management. Apart from its obvious effects on overall health, did you know that physical activity can help you hack the happy hormones? In fact, exercising pumps up the production of endorphins, so-called “feel-good” hormones. Almost any physical activity will reduce your stress and anxiety levels, but the key to having the best experience is finding an exercise that you will enjoy. My personal favourites are dancing 💃🏻 and boxing 🥊 – clearing the mind and leaving zero stress. Here are more of activities you can experiment with:
- Sports – e.g., swimming, tennis, running, or good old gym
- Housework (don’t frown, it can be quite satisfying)
4. Social & Professional Support 🧑🏻🤝🧑🏻
A problem shared is a problem halved.
Dealing with stressful experiences can be very demanding and exhausting when we keep it to ourselves and hold it inside. Talking about problems, on the other hand, can help release the built up tension and negative feelings.
Aside from the emotional benefit, sharing your concerns with other people can also facilitate a productive discussion. At the end of the day, you will start looking at the problem from a new perspective, reflect on your thoughts and feelings, and find the solution to the problem that’s been bugging you for so long.
In these sensitive moments, it is very important to have people you trust and feel safe around – it can be a family member, roommate, partner, or a close friend. Since most of us spend our 9 to 5s in workplace environments, having a colleague or manager you can find comfort in is also imperative. Starting the mental-health-talks with people from work can be sometimes challenging, at first, because of the feelings of shame and worry of the outcomes. However, having a private and open conversation with a manager you trust and believe in can bring surprisingly positive outcomes – such as feeling supported and understood, creating an action plan to manage your stress, and so forth. At Your Talent Agency, when we put “People First”, we mean not only candidates and clients but also each other in the team. By having close relationships at work and people-oriented culture, we managed to create an environment, in which we feel safe to share our experiences and concerns.
If you do not feel like sharing with beloved ones, there is an option of seeking help from an independent professional who will help and consult you in managing your stress, so pay a visit to your GP to receive the needed help.
In addition, you can always write down your thoughts and concerns in the notes or paper and come back to them few days later – to look at them from a fresh and less emotional perspective.
Take Home Messages
- Stress awareness does not start and end in April, but it’s a great opportunity to take time to observe your life and stressors from a new perspective and build a new stress-management toolbox.
- Carry your toolkit everywhere you go – not only to work, but also social gatherings, personal and everyday life!
- Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart.