Stress has been getting a bad rap recently and it’s easy to see why. We’ve recently discovered that stress is linked to higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune conditions and more. Modern life moves so fast, and it seems more and more demands are being placed on us in the workplace. We are expected to do more and do it faster, without sacrificing quality. We are expected to be available at all times, which sees us replying to client emails while out for dinner with friends on a Friday evening.
So, what can we do? The simplest and most practical thing you can do to overcome stress is to change the way you think about it.
Let’s stop giving stress such a hard time. It’s actually an important natural reaction to a high pressure situation. We need stress. When we are faced with a stressful situation, our bodies produce hormones including adrenaline and cortisol, inducing the “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and provides extra energy. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, also temporarily increases energy by triggering the release of glucose into the bloodstream. At the same time, other bodily functions which are not immediately needed, such as digestion, are suppressed.
While we no longer need to run away from sabre-toothed tigers like our ancestors used to, we still encounter high pressure situations at home and at work and can use stress to help us overcome them. For example, as you sit at your desk making your to-do list for the day, feel the stress rise as your breath shortens, your appetite disappears, and your heart pounds. Instead of allowing yourself to become overwhelmed, recognise that your body is creating the perfect conditions for you to get things done. The stress is giving you the energy and focus you need to complete tasks efficiently.
There are however, plenty of ways to combat stress taking over:
When we are stressed, we breathe far too much. To counteract this take a few slow, controlled breaths. Become aware of the sensations in your body as you breathe in and out.
Instead of constantly thinking about what you are going to do next, be right where you are right now. No matter how mundane the task, try to enjoy it instead of constantly looking forward, or thinking about the past. Whether you are ordering your morning coffee, waiting for the printer, washing the dishes, stay in that moment and try to find pleasure in the mundane.
We’re always trying to do so much before realising that we are not actually getting anything done. To improve the quality of your work and get more done, focus on one task at a time. Juggling screens is the worst kind of procrastination, preventing you from taking in information accurately. Make lists to correctly prioritise tasks, switch your phone to airplane mode and ignore emails while trying to get important jobs done.
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