I wish I was impervious to stress. It is a biological response, usually stemming from the need to adapt to pressure situations. Our body reacts accordingly, releasing hormones and setting off a chain of responses within us.
But often stress can turn into anxiety, overwhelm and sickness, clouding our thinking and impacting our sense of well-being, even when we are generally happy.
I want to dedicate some space to coping with stress because I know it affects most people. I have collated over ten ways we can use actions and ways of thinking to reduce the impact of stress on our lives.
Even the highest stress periods of your life do not have to be disasters.
The next series of posts will be about managing stress. Hopefully, even if you are feeling well-balanced lately it can still help you enjoy your life even more.
Dealing with Stress Part 1
To borrow from the Apple slogan… Think different.
This is genius. So much of what we accept in our day to day lives does not have to be this way. There are systems in every job and in your home life that are not working for you that you are accepting as the norm. What’s more, you may be accepting the stress of a situation as being normal. You probably brace yourself and hope you don’t implode. When the voice in my head is in freefall and my ‘highest self’ is lost I have said things like ‘I am dreading today’ and when asked how I’m feeling, I’ve jokingly responded with ‘suicidal’. This is not the person I need to be, especially when dealing with young people on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, when under stress, I want to claim I work with unreasonable deadlines, ebb towards doing things when only they have to be done, make excuses, suffer in silence and generally notice and talk about the negative.
This is why I have developed better systems that work for me, even within the framework of my vocation expectations. Read the section below if you are interested in how I cheated my way out of the most stressful period of a teacher’s year.
Report time seems to be worse than the bane of existence to most teachers. It results in a lack of sleep, irritability and unnecessary resentment. Teachers can sometimes do a less than ideal job as we are under the pump. For me, report writing is my pride and joy. Other teachers look at my reports for ideas and as a sample of how to write more personalised and helpful feedback for students. Here is how I can hold my head high during this time period:
· Instead of waiting for the reporting period to begin, I start early. Like a whole term early! If I pay attention, I can learn plenty about students in the first few weeks of a semester and begin putting comments together on a Word document. I can always add a sentence or two once I have extra data. Then, the process is about getting to know my students rather than just churning out drivel.
· I prophesise instead of report. Especially for the second semester, I consider what the student cannot do and what I am committed to teaching them. Then, when I write their report, stating the improvements they have made, I am pledging to myself that I will help them in this area. Of course I can make adjustments if necessary, but the point is, I have a solid basis from which to begin.
· I have the mindset that I love writing reports. It is a chance to show I care and to communicate meaningfully with parents.
Some strategy and a positive outlook goes a long way. I am still looking at ways to make assessment periods more manageable (less stress for me and more autonomy from students is the goal!), which involves shifting the culture I work within, but I know that with a bit of planning this will change too.
My question to you… (reply to this if you like!)
What in-built systems can you flip through your own approach and mindset? What can you execute with pride or learn to love if you take the pressure off?
· Do the bulk of your work at the most productive part of the day for you?
· Begin early, reuse, recycle, delegate, outsource, etc?
· Do the same job in batches (like responding to emails)?
· Set up a template or automate?
· Make your area of expertise?
· Do while you’re having a bath or listen to while you’re at the gym?
Let me know any brainwaves you have that could dramatically decrease stress and create a more fun approach to something tedious or unavoidable. You can work towards loving and enjoying most parts of your work. It involves some real creative thinking and flipping a lot of what you know on its head.
Do the work.
Dealing with Stress Part Two:
Know Your Baseline Health and Happiness Go-Tos… And actually go to them!
When most people are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, they let even little important things dwindle. Like hydration, healthy eating, relaxation and those interests that work wonders on our sense of wellbeing. Even talking to other people becomes less important.
Think about the last time you felt a bit off. Were you eating properly, drinking water and uncompromising about bedtime?
Look after yourself! Zero room for negotiation here.
Give your mind, body and spirit some massive love. The more stressed you feel, the more you need to slow down and take care of you.
Even if you think there are more important things to deal with.
Even if you are on a deadline.
Even if you feel pressure from yourself or others.
Always, always treat yourself well.
I have had some seriously messed up days, where stress, anxiety, tears and an impending sense of doom hit me at once. I have even woken up with this feeling. But if I go to one karate class, suddenly I break out of the pattern and can get more done, with less worry. It does not feel entirely natural to do something so good for yourself when you are going 100 miles an hour or feeling depressed or overwhelmed. It can be easy to get stuck in patterns of thinking and behaving.
But change is still super easy and I believe you can act your way into feeling better.
This week (and forever), please be disciplined when it comes to looking after yourself. Don’t neglect fun and leisure and tune in to what your body needs to stay healthy.
What do you need to do to show yourself that no matter what, you value and respect yourself?
Click here to see the list I use to remind myself of what looking after myself actually involves. It is a Word Doc, so you can add to this, edit, replace, tweak and print. No matter what, do what you need to do! These are basics for me- I don’t even have meditation per se on the list, or sex for that matter because they are not the baselines that keep me in check. Have a play with this and feel free to send it my way. I am curious about what you need.
How is this working out for you? Do you notice that during times of stress the simplest healthy practices start to dwindle? What little things make the biggest difference to your sense of wellbeing?
Share your insights in the comments below and share with anyone who could show themselves a little more love during tough times.
Your mission is to take care of you!!!
All my love,