by Alexa Garthwaite
Stress can be healthy in small doses. It fills us with energy, and encourages us to work harder. However, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can be damaging – both mentally and physically – and should be avoided. One way to reduce the harmful effects of anxiety is to develop a positive mind-set. Follow these tips to learn how to constructively deal with stress.
The first step to creating a winning perspective is to recognise when you’re feeling stressed. Many people only realise that they’re unhappy when someone else points it out to them.
The easiest way to do this is to keep a stress diary. You can do this online with sites like Moodtracker or Moodpanda, or use a physical paper diary. Make a conscious effort to notice when you’re stressed. Every time you have negative feelings, write them down. Try to identify the causes, and note them down too.
Do this every day for two weeks, and then review it. When did you feel stressed, and what were the triggers? Recognising the signs and causes of your stress is the first step to developing a more positive attitude.
Get some distance
The next time you recognise the signs of stress, try to remove yourself from the situation. If it’s possible, get some physical distance by leaving the office.
Next, do something enjoyable and completely unrelated to your job for 10 minutes. You could play a game on your phone, or attempt a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Exercise is the best option – it releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood. Take a brisk walk around the block, or climb up and down the stairs in your building.
Rationalise the situation
Once you’ve achieved some distance from the situation, it’s time to whip out your diary. Again, write down the cause of your stress, and how it’s making you feel. Then, ask yourself these questions:
How many mistakes have actually been made?
Will it happen again?
How could it have been worse?
What are the positives?
Should you actually be feeling so stressed about it?
Let’s take an example scenario. You’re in charge of one of the most important client accounts at work. Yesterday, you forgot to scroll to the bottom of your to-do list. As a result, you didn’t see the final task, which was an important piece of work for the client, due in today. The client has asked for it, and is upset that it’s not been done on time. They’ve asked you to get it done for the end of the day.
Your initial feelings are panic, stress, and guilt. You can’t believe you’ve been so careless, your client is furious with you, you’re probably going to get fired…
Stop there, and work through the questions.
How many mistakes have actually been made? In this case, one. And it’s a pretty small mistake at that. Forgetting to scroll down to the bottom of your list isn’t a hanging offence, and your client will understand this. It could be so much worse – at least you haven’t done this.
Will it happen again? It’s highly unlikely, as long as you learn from your mistake.
How could it have been worse? Your client could have complained about you to your boss. You could have lost the client altogether. You could have been fired. You could have forgotten to do everything on your to-do list, not just one thing. In comparison, the actual consequences are actually pretty small.
What are the positives? You made one small mistake, which is easy to fix. Your client hasn’t complained about you, and will probably be impressed with your quick turn-around of the work. The consequences could have been much worse, but are actually minor.
Should you actually be feeling so stressed about it? Again, the answer to this is always no. Once you’ve worked through the other points, you’ll start to gain a sense of perspective, and feel less stressed. However bad the situation is, it could always be worse.
With practice, you can reduce your reliance on the book, and work through these steps in your head. Eventually, your mind will be able do this automatically, improving your reaction to stressful situations. Stress is an unhealthy symptom – follow these steps, and develop a more relaxed approach to life.