If you’re human, you may be feeling slightly stressed right now. Waiting for exam results, making decisions about next year and dealing with family can all add up to a less than peaceful year-end. Stress doesn’t have to triumph over calm though – it’s just a matter of learning how to manage it.
Know your stress signals
It’s amazing how long we can go without realising we’re stressed, during which time the stress simply continues to escalate. Sometimes we only realise how tense we were when we’ve been on holiday for a while and suddenly notice we’re no longer grinding our teeth. Knowing your stress signals helps you to take action earlier and start reducing the effects immediately. For some people, it’s a stiff neck or painful upper or lower back, for others it’s a headache, fuzzy thinking or not being able to sleep, in some extremes stress surfaces as anger or even depression. What’s your stress signal?
Breathing well is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce stress. Most of us don’t breathe very well to start with, as we spend far too much time hunched over computers and breathing in polluted air. Stress only makes this worse and we end up breathing very shallowly, right up at the top of our lungs.
Take a moment now to close your eyes and take a few very slow and deep breaths, in and out, right to the bottom of your lungs. You’ll know you’ve got this right when your stomach (rather than your shoulders) rises when you breathe in and falls when you breathe out.
Focus on one thing at a time
Trying to do too much at once is bound to lead to overwhelm and more stress. Rather than constantly having 100 things running through your mind, make a physical list of things you need to do and prioritise them. Then just do the next most important thing and focus only on that. Once it’s done, go onto the next most important thing. Repeat until you’re done, but never forget that they don’t all have to be done today.
Being aware of when stress has struck, and then just doing these few things, will make a huge difference to how well you survive the crazy end-of-year season. It’s a huge reward for not much effort, and definitely worth it!