Often people think about relaxation, but it’s also important to think about how we can reduce the stress in our lives. Stress can become so normal to us that we almost forget that there may be something we can do to remove it.
In the previous lesson we considered the four main types of stress.
The first step in controlling your stress is understanding which category it fits into and whether it is within your control or not. are there ways to remove or reduce acute stress (i.e. short term stress) or chronic stress (i.e. ongoing stress)
Is it within your control?
For all of the four categories it is important to identify whether the stressor is a) in your control ‘controllable’ or b) outside of your control ‘non-controllable’.
You can use Your Relaxation Book to assist with this. It can be used in two ways, either to assess your whole life or to address one specific stressor that comes up.
If it is ‘Controllable’ and there is something you can do about it TAKE ACTION (see below). If it is ‘Non-Controllable’ don’t worry about it. I appreciate this is easier said than done, however at the simplest level this is the key to reducing your stress. The worksheets in Your Relaxation Book will assist you with this.
If you are able to focus your energy on what you can control you will find you becoming even more productive, yet more relaxed.
If a stressor is controllable the most important thing to do is to take action. This is all about prioritising, delegating and getting sh*t done (#GSD).
For prioritising and GSD this is the method that I teach and find useful myself.
It may be that you need to practice delegation and asking for help. It can sometimes feel easier to do it yourself, but in the long run this isn’t the case. Delegation is an art and takes time to get right. The following tips may help
- Identify which things you need help with – what can’t you do? isn’t your strength? drains your energy?
- Identify who is the best person to provide that help – this may be a partner, friend, colleague, family member or it may be someone you need to hire (it might not be as expensive as you think to hire a cleaner or assistant for a couple of hours a week)
- Find a good time to ask them if they are willing to help you. Be clear about what you need and how often.
- Let them do it THEIR WAY. Don’t interfere even if they mess it up
- Thank them (even when they mess up!)
This is most relevant to small stress and external stress. It’s so easy to say yes to small things and demands of others thinking you ‘have to’. Not only does this increase your stress, but it can lead to resentment and damage relationships. This article may help to think about saying no in a different way. I find it useful to have a handful of sentences I use to say no or to take time to think about it. The following may help:
– “I’d love to, but I have so much on my plate right now it wouldn’t be fair to either of us”
– “Of course I can do X, however it would mean I’ll need to postpone/delegate/not do/charge you for Y” (particularly good for when a boss or client makes demands)
– “Can I let you know nearer the time as I know I’ve been taking on too much lately”
– “I don’t have the capacity for this at the moment, however X would be a good person to ask”
Everything you do ask yourself ‘Is this adding to my stress?’. If it is, make sure there is a very good reason for doing it (and not just because you feel an obligation!)
This is especially important when you’re feeling overwhelmed and have too many plates. At times when the world is spinning a little too fast you need to say no to everything that isn’t 100% necessary.
Review Your Diary
This is a great technique when you are feeling extremely overwhelmed.
Go through your diary and cancel anything which isn’t absolutely necessary and DO NOT BOOK ANYTHING ELSE IN until life calms down.
This is most relevant to external stress and can be hard to implement, however people tend to respect boundaries and actually feel better when they know where they stand.
Your boundaries may include:
-Blocking out time in your diary for you or relaxation
– Setting times when you will start/finish work and take breaks AND sticking to them. I know in many jobs it isn’t likely you will take full breaks everyday, however if you can commit to 2-3 short breaks throughout the day (to implement some of the relaxation ideas from the next lesson) or take your full break once or twice a week it can make a difference
– Not taking on other people’s problems. As mentioned before at times we all need to support others whether emotionally or practically, however this can’t be at the expense of us. Who’s Got the Monkey is a famous article first published in the Harvard Business Review, but is also relevant to personal life as well as work
– Not doing other people’s work for them and/or not working for free.
Remove people from your life
This may sound mercenary, but there does become times where you need to stop spending time with or at least reduce the amount of time you spend with people who drain you or are toxic. Have a think about the people in your life and whether they are a positive or negative influence (or both).
The Stress that Remains
Even if you became really good at focusing taking action around ‘Controllable’ stress and not worrying about ‘Non-Controllable’ stress there are still be environmental stressors and big stressors (and possibly others) impacting your body.
Also, it’s easy to say don’t stress about what you can’t control, but if a loved one is very sick then it’s likely to be impossible (maybe a Buddhist monks could manage it?). This is where relaxation comes in. At times when you have stress remaining it is critical to ensure you get adequate relaxation. The next lesson focuses on this.