Waking up only to find that you’ve hit the snooze button three times too many? Stress. Rushing to work but hit the worst traffic jam in the history of mankind? Stress. Realised you’ve made a tiny mistake on your mid-term paper which could endanger your A? Stress.
Stress surrounds us in today’s fast-paced society, where smart phones blur the line between work and life, and commitments with family and friends fill every waking hour of our schedules outside of work.
Medically speaking, stress is both an emotional, and a physical strain that is caused by our response to external pressures. But did you know that not all stress is bad?
Good Stress vs Bad Stress
Good stress motivates you to work harder, to rise to a special challenge, or to save your life in an emergency bear attack. You’re probably familiar with this kind of stress, which gets your adrenaline pumping and add excitement to your life. If you can’t recognise it, try queuing up for a roller coaster.
On the flip side, if you do not keep a lid on the stress levels, the negative stress can dampen your health, relationships and enjoyment of life.
Stress Can Lead to Illnesses
When you are stressed out, you’ll find it hard to concentrated, get irritated very easily, and sometimes experience tension headaches. Physically, stress can cause chest pains, deprivation of sleep, a weaker immune system and loss of appetite.
The ultimate challenge in life is to learn how to manage the good stress and get rid of the bad, unhealthy ones. Here are 15 “relief valves” that can help eliminate some of the dreaded ‘S’ word.
1. Stay ahead of your work
This is a good way to relieve the pressure of schedules. By scheduling a completion time 10% to 20% ahead of a deadline, you have the peace of knowing there’s time to recover if things go wrong.
2. As the Chinese say, first bitter, then sweet
Do the hard things first. If things have a great deal of emotional content, you will be relieved to get them over and done with. Otherwise, that feeling of dread will continue to plague you throughout the day. This is why we schedule difficult meetings in the morning. And gym.
3. Snooze up (enough sleep is about 6-8 hours)
Even if there’s a pressing project that will decide your your future at your workplace, you’ll need your sleep. Know how long you can get along with a reduced amount and rest when you need to. Exhaustion can skew your perspective on things, causing small problems to be blown out of proportion; thus causing stress. We all need at least six to eight hours of good sleep to function well. If stress is disturbing your sleep, you may need to talk to someone or see a doctor.
4. It’s not all-or-nothing
You don’t need to have a perfect outcome the first round. Just give it a go and usually the ‘first draft’ will get you 80% of the way. You can then plot time to refine and top off the finish product and the deadline wouldn’t seem as dreadful.
5. Have a life
Setting aside regular time for your favorite activity helps you to relax. Whether your hobby is to hit balls at the golf course, or kick back with a hot cup of Milo and a Korean drama, make time for how you unwind best.
6. Don’t bottle up your negative emotions
Be truthful. It can be the lack of sleep, overworking, too much stress or whatever else. As long as you admit to what’s making you irritable, it helps keep others from getting emotional with you and triggering unexpected explosions. Avoid the couple fight at home!
7. Admit that you’re not superman or wonderwoman
You might have 127 things on your calendar for this week, but you have to realise that you are not superman/woman. If you really can’t really can’t do all the things you’ve scheduled, the best relief valve is to postpone some of them. This can be a humbling experience, but the rewards in personal well-being are great.
8. Spend time with the people you care about and love
Never underestimate the power of good healthy relationships. We all need the support and help of our friends and family. Spend time cultivating those relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
9. Prioritise your commitments
Categorise your commitments into what you have to do versus what you like to do. Don’t compare yourself to others as we all have different tolerance levels to stress. Be selective when making commitments. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another.
10. Stop eating junk
Sure, junk food tastes good and it’s cheap and convenient. But, good nutrition helps alleviate stress because you’ll feel better and have more energy. You wouldn’t fill your Proton’s petrol tank with junk and expect it to run normally, would you? Neither should you do that to your body.
11. Become a gym rat
Regular exercise is a proven stress reducer and it will physically benefit your body, relieve tension, counteract bad stress, help you relax and even help you sleep better. Go for a walk or ride your bike – just start moving! Or better yet, get your friends / family involved and kill two birds with one stone!
12. Stop being a perfectionist
Work hard to do your best and be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish. Expecting perfection creates stress for everyone, destroying you and the relationships you care about.
13. Ikea your life
Keep all areas of your life neat and orderly. Organisation takes time and energy, but it will save you from unnecessary stress down the road. You don’t want to be double-booked at work and your great-great-great grandmother’s birthday party, do you?
14. Say goodbye to procrastination
Ever find yourself feeling swamped because you have waited till the last moment to finish your project? If you plan your time well and work on what needs to be done ahead of schedule, instead of Facebooking at work, you wouldn’t have to always suffer the week before deadline.
15. Take a break
One of the most effective, long-range relief valves is to recognise what causes the build up of pressure. If you see on your calendar that you are in for a few heavy weeks or too many late nights, block out some relief-valve time and take yourself out of your normal situation. This may mean a day alone at the beach or the mountains, a day with your family or a weekend away with your darling.
Remember that stress is caused by our response to external pressures around us. The solution then is relatively straightforward – reduce or get rid of the external pressures, and change our response to the pressures.
Still awfully stressed-up? Check out 19 more ways to reduce stress, and the supplements, dietary changes, and herbs you can take for stress.