The rapid pace of modern living has seen individual lives changing faster and every day we are faced with tonnes of decisions and unique situations. Balancing work, our social lives, family, business and clients, health and fitness, school and spiritual growth among others, has become increasingly difficult and more individuals are falling short and failing to keep up with such a pace. We are often faced with overwhelming demands in trying to keep up and with the ever increasing pressures we often feel unable to cope. Many such situations leave us uncomfortable and in (dire) need of an immediate solution.
Stress is what you feel when you have more to handle than you are used to. In a more specific sense, stress is a mental, physical or emotional strain caused by either internal or external factors. Stress has also been defined as an adaptive response by an individual that is a consequence of any external action, situation or event that places special physical and/or psychological demands upon a person. The most common stressors are situations and people. Everyone goes through stressful times in life, however, the magnitude and levels very from one person to another and from a situation to another. Stress can come from your job, family, friends and even things outside of our control such as sickness, death of a close person etc.
Many articles have been written about stress, but let me take a unique approach for better understanding of stress and its management. Today we would love to share with you how you can manage stress in your day to day life as stress is a fact of life and good stress management skills brings about both emotional and physical health benefits. Here are a few facts about stress that are important to know before we delve into the stress management techniques;
- Stress is not a mere nervous tension, it equally affects our emotional health
- Stress is necessary and even useful sometimes because it allows for creativity in managing both situations and people.
- Stress can have positive consequences like an improved memory, boosted immune system, and better time management among others.
- Stress is infectious; sometimes stressed individuals give off negative energies and association with such negativity will have an effect on us.
- Stress can be avoided by understanding its triggers and limiting contact with such and most importantly,
- Stress should be managed because stress management is core to our physical and emotional well being.
The ability to take on what life throws at us varies from person to person. Everyone feels and responds to stress differently. Whereas one person would get overwhelmed by a situation, another person would remain absolutely calm and collected. Stress management, therefore, cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, however, here a few stress management techniques that can be adopted and applied to take you through any stressful situation that you may be going through;
- Self-awareness; Self-awareness refers to having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, situations, your perceptions, your attitude and your responses. When you become more self-aware and understand who you are better, it becomes easier to know your stress triggers and how to either control them or manage them. Stress can also grow slowly and go unnoticed, or ignored, for years. Lack of self-awareness can cause it to build up until something breaks under the pressure. Becoming more self-aware means you can identify the stress triggers and be able to tell if you’re stressed or not.
2. Accept; acceptance is the first stage of stress management. it is at this stage that we identify stressors; whether it is a situation or a person, identify the cause of stress and equally identify stress signals such as headache, restlessness, lack of concentration, low morale, frustration, fatigue, sickness, nastiness, discontent or any other signal for stress and ACCEPT IT. In our article about how entrepreneurs deal with a low morale, ‘figuring it out’ is the first step in dealing with a low morale. Similarly for stress, identification of stressors and consequently accepting it is key. Before you accept that a situation or person is causing stress to you, it will be close to impossible to find a remedy or solution for that situation/problem.
3. Plan and execute; think logically and objectively about how you intend to manage this stressful situation. If it is a bit overwhelming, break it down into manageable parts and sort it out on a step by step basis, making sure you maintain progress! This stage involves two types of execution techniques;
- Calming techniques; many practices have been suggested at this stage, some by experts and among other things; exercising, taking a walk, calming activities like massages, praying, stretching, taking tea, going out with friends and taking time off are commonly suggested practices for managing stress. These practices however, are only useful in letting you to become better composed to think more objectively about how to handle the situation at hand. It is not enough to only calm yourself down when faced with a stressful situation. A practical solution still needs to be found for that situation.
- Techniques to actually manage the situation; as already mentioned earlier, objectivity is significant in managing any stressful situation. Once you are calmer and better composed, it’s easier to think objectively and better plan a more logical and healthier course of action. Breaking it down into a step by step course of action makes the situation more manageable. Say you had a bad disagreement with your boss over something (whether work related or not); your ideal course of action would look something like this; think through why it happened the way it did, decide whether it is necessary to meet up and talk things through and if it is, plan a meet up with him/her, discuss openly and respectfully about what happened and put things behind you and finally ensure that in the future such an exchange doesn’t repeat itself. It’s important to note that no two situations are the same and therefore each situation needs to be handled independently.
4. Adapt to stress management and reduction techniques; most of the stress we face can be divided into 3 categories;
- natural stress that we face for example when trying to achieve set goals,
- stress we can control such as stress from relationships and
- Stress we can’t control such as sickness or death of loved ones.
For the stress we can control, the following techniques are useful;
> avoid stressors (situations, people),
> practice positive thinking,
> do not take in more responsibility than you can handle,
> practice better relationship management and stop fretting over little things.
Stress is one thing that will happen to us from time to time, especially that which we have no control over.
When you manage one stressful situation well, it gets easier to avoid a similar situation in the future. Adopting stress reduction techniques is therefore very vital for future situations.
- Become more self-aware
- Identify the stressors
- Reduce/avoid possible stressors in your life
- Learn healthy ways to manage stress
- Avoid similar situations in the future
By Sarah Achiro
Sarah is our Management Consultancy Trainee. She is a growing consultant with BLEGSCOPE and has 2 years’ experience in consulting for SMEs and in the service sector. She is keen on strategy, finance and procurement. She has previously worked for Riham Foods and MTN. You can follow her on twitter >> @achirosarah