April is Stress Awareness Month, which means it’s a great time to check in on your own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of your employees and coworkers. This month, we want to focus on ways to cope with stress and reduce the stigma around it. We live in a society that can be very performance-focussed and it can feel difficult to hit the pause button when things become too much.
An unhealthy amount of stress affects our sleep, mood, and performance. If this continues for longer periods of time, it can eventually lead to burnout.
Because of this, it’s important to address the signs and reduce stress as much as we can.
What is stress?
Stress is the reaction our body has when we’re feeling under pressure or threatened. In some situations, stress can be helpful. If you have a big presentation or you’re performing in a play, a healthy amount of stress will motivate you and help you do well.
Where it becomes an issue is when you start feeling so overwhelmed that you no longer feel like you have control over your life. In those cases, stress can have a negative impact on your performance, self-esteem and relationships with the people around you. Eventually, it can even lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
When we’re stressed for long periods of time, our bodies will try to send us warning signs that we need to slow down.
Here are some of the warning signs of stress:
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Lack of energy
- Constant worrying
- Anxious, helpless or depressed thoughts
- Short temper or other changes in behaviour and mood
Ways to reduce stress
Here are some things you can try to cope with stress in your everyday life. No matter how busy you are, you can make these activities part of your day. Your future, more relaxed self will thank you!
|1. Maintain a balanced diet|
|2. Schedule self-care moments|
|3. Talk to someone|
|4. Get rid of distractions|
|5. Allow room for creativity|
|6. Split up bigger tasks|
|7. Celebrate good things|
|8. Plan ahead|
|9. Meditate or do breathing exercises|
|10. Be active|
|11. Say 'no' to things|
1. Maintain a balanced diet
When we’re busy and overwhelmed, one of the first things we stop dedicating time and effort to is our meals. But food has a massive impact on our energy levels and overall mood, so a healthy and balanced diet is actually one of the most important things to focus on, especially in busy times. Try to schedule meal times or make a meal plan for the whole week. Even when you’re on the go all day, you can make sure to pack some fruit or a nourishing snack. Our Wellbeing Centre makes this easy, with quick and nutritious recipes accessible in the ‘Munch’ category on the platform.
2. Schedule self-care moments
Be unapologetic about self-care moments where you just focus on yourself. Everyone needs them. What ‘self-care’ means is different for everyone. Maybe you feel completely re-energised after a hair or nail appointment, maybe you enjoy a long bath or maybe you just want to be by yourself and read for a couple of hours. No matter what it is that helps you charge your battery, make sure that these moments are part of your daily or weekly schedule.
3. Talk to someone
When you’re overwhelmed, talking to someone can really help you put things into perspective. Expressing your feelings out loud allows you to organise your thoughts and needs a bit better. You can confide in a friend, a family member, or a professional. Or start writing down how you feel. Just letting your thoughts flow and putting them into words can make you see things more clearly. Our EAP programme provides independent, confidential help and support, and our Wellbeing Coaches allow for a proactive approach to wellbeing.
4. Get rid of distractions
During the work day, you have a million tabs open, your email and chat notifications are on and your mobile (that you keep checking every five minutes) is right next to you. After work, you’re watching a show on TV but your mobile is still in your hand because you’re also in the middle of a text conversation or you’re scrolling through social media. Sounds familiar? All of these small distractions actually prevent us from focussing on one task or activity. When you want to watch a movie or have a nice dinner, put your phone in another room. When you’re working on a task, turn off those notifications.
5. Allow room for creativity
Creativity and stress do not go hand in hand. When we’re being creative, we’re using a different part of our brain than the part that produces feelings of anxiety or worry. So find out what makes you feel creative and allow yourself the time to focus on those things. Knitting, dancing, writing, cooking… dedicate some time to those activities and you will feel much more relaxed afterwards.
6. Split up bigger tasks
We often worry about a task because it seems too big. By splitting a project into smaller chunks, it immediately feels less overwhelming. You can even schedule when you will do which part of the task and celebrate every little bit that’s done.
7. Celebrate the good things
Sometimes we focus so much on everything we should have done already and everything we still need to do, that we forget to actually celebrate the little things that are happening right now that make our lives great.
Once a day, take five minutes to think about something good that happened to you – a nice interaction with a stranger, a compliment from a colleague, a task that you finished that you’re proud of.
You can even write these down and look at them when you start to feel overwhelmed, or send an eCard through your employee recognition platform to brighten someone else’s day.
8. Plan ahead
This can often feel impossible when we have work and family lives that are unpredictable and hectic. Still, try to reduce that feeling of chaos by planning as much as you can in advance. When you have a schedule and you know what the week ahead looks like, unexpected things won’t throw you off balance as easily. You will be able to keep a cool head and deal with these changes.
9. Meditate or do breathing exercises
You don’t have to be a yoga expert to enjoy the benefits of meditation and breathing exercises. Having a daily ritual where you focus on your breathing for a couple of minutes, for example before bed, will have a positive effect on your mood and your sleep patterns. It might take a while to get used to this, but eventually this will be a moment where you can turn off all of the distractions in your life and just focus on you and your body.
10. Be active
Moving your body in a way that you like relieves pressure and improves your mood massively. Go to the gym, take a long walk or just dance to your favourite playlist for 15 minutes. Do whatever makes you feel good! At RG, we motivate employees to be active through challenges on MoveSpring. People love to see the leaderboards each month as we compete for the most steps and active minutes, and becoming more active together makes exercise more fun!
11. Say ‘no’ to things
We all need to guard our boundaries, both in our professional and personal lives. Fear of missing out or not wanting to disappoint people can often make us say yes to things we already know we don’t have the time or the energy for, or maybe we simply don’t want to do them. ‘No’ is a perfectly valid answer. It can seem scary to say no to these things, but you are actually doing yourself and the people around you a favour by respecting your own limits.
I hope that these tips have been useful, and that you can start building them into your daily routine to feel more relaxed and less stressed even during the busiest times. Let's work together to reduce the stigma around stress and remind ourselves and each other to press pause when needed.