With the demands of full time jobs, household chores, parenting, and maintaining healthy relationships, sooner or later many people begin to loose the battle against stress and head for burnout. To pack more into every day, they take shortcuts: they “talk” to friends via Facebook, answer the phone whilst typing emails, eat fast food rather than home cooked meals.
This leaves more time for a multitude of tasks but, in the long term, the constant juggling results in problems with concentration, difficulties in making decisions and inability to relax. Although they take a bit of effort and may not work every day, these tried and tested techniques can help beat stress in daily life.
Getting up earlier, starting work without delay and avoiding distractions can help beat work related stress. Starting with urgent, larger tasks rather than putting them off till later is important, as it is easier to concentrate and make the right decisions when well-rested. If there are several of these planned for the day, focusing on the tasks that can be finished today gives a real sense of accomplishment.
Equally important is distinguishing between what must be done and what should be done, and moving tasks that are not crucial to the bottom of the to-do list or even purging them.
Turning off emails for the day or not looking at them till the end of the day can help, too. Similarly, letting all calls go to voicemail for a few hours will not cause the world to end.
In the case of those who are normally task-orientated, when a situation demands choosing between a “person” and a “task”, it is mentally more rewarding to choose the person. Whether that person’s child is ill or she is a colleague who needs help at work, making them a priority for the day helps improve the general sense of well-being, which in turn helps reduce stress.
Even perfectionists do not have to do everything by themselves, whether on the job or at home. When faced with two tasks, which seem equally urgent and important, it is key to question which is critical. Dealing with this task and asking for help with the other reduces undue workplace stress and can also be applied at home. Whoever helps may not do it perfectly well but it still gets done, the urgency goes away and any loose ends can be tidied up later.
At work, most people want more responsibility and want to feel useful, and taking the time to explain the tasks will pay dividends in the long term. The same thing holds true when delegating tasks at home.
Starting the day with a relaxing ritual such as meditation or yoga prepares the mind and the body for the day ahead. Both are proven techniques for relieving stress and help to concentrate on what is important.
It is not necessary to be productive 24/7. Snatching moments during the day to do nothing, or at least to do something aimlessly, is healthy for the mind. So is staring out of the window on the train rather than answering emails. Going for a walk without actually aiming to get somewhere is an exercise both for the body and the mind.
Being creative, taking up a hobby or simply having fun help put life into perspective and are powerful antidotes to stress.
Downtime – reading, taking a nap, or even taking a long bath rather than a quick shower – helps recharge batteries and diverts the mind. And when the mind wanders back to urgent matters, there is always tomorrow.
It is impossible to function at full speed all the time every time without heading for burnout. Slowing down or speeding up depending on what circumstances demand is a recipe for coping with stress.