Author: Valerie Jauregui/Tuesday, April 16, 2024/Categories: Quinton Anthony

Ever feel like you're drowning in stress?

It happens to the best of us. Stress affects our personal and professional lives, impacting our ability to experience an enjoyable and balanced life.

Whilst there are generally warning signs, we often ignore them, pushing through until our mental and physical health suffers.

Below are the tools you need to help you effectively and efficiently manage your stress when the warning signs begin to show.

1. Understand how stress helps & hinders your performance

What does a healthy amount of stress look like, and when does it become too much?

Not all stress is ‘bad’. We all need a certain amount of stress to work at our best - where we feel energised, engaged, and think clearer. Yet, too much stress can make us feel strained and under pressure. Our cognition is negatively impacted, resulting in poor decision-making and inadequate problem-solving.

2. Identify your source of stress

Where do your key sources of stress stem from? Is there a strong and consistent theme or does it vary?

It’s crucial to recognise your sources of stress and concern. Whilst an unmanageable or high workload is a common source of stress, it can also stem from a lack of autonomy, role clarity, job insecurity, unsupportive leadership, workplace conflict or an uncivil work environment. Financial pressure, family health issues or other life events can also present significant challenges.

3. Notice your stress response

What do you feel and how do you behave in stressful situations?

When under pressure, we can feel threatened, triggering varying responses. Try to observe yourself from afar - what do others see when you are under pressure? Do you respond with frustration or anger? Do you isolate yourself from others? Do you seek immediate gratification with alcohol or food, or do you reach out for support and take proactive steps to decrease your stress levels? Whilst your responses may differ depending on the situation, there is likely to be a pattern.

4. Focus on what you can control

Are your sources of stress all outside your control, or can you take steps to positively influence them?

It’s common to worry about things we can’t control, such as interest rates or how others react to you. Instead, focus on what you can do to improve your situation, which can help to reduce stress. Notice your perception of what can and can’t be influenced, e.g. you may not perceive uncompromising workloads as within your control, but can an alternative solution be negotiated? Get creative and hone your valuable time and energy on what you can control or influence.

5. Consider whether action is needed

Have you gauged whether the stress you're experiencing is transient or becoming a long-term burden?

Whilst humans are typically equipped to deal with temporary or shorter bouts of stress, sustained or high-stress levels can slowly accumulate over months or even years, which can lead to health problems such as burnout syndrome. The path to burnout can be slow, and the tell-tale warning signs may not be immediately obvious. Consider whether you need to take action now to address your mental and physical health.