Coping strategies

Long-term stress situation?

Life has ups and downs, but sometimes you might go through a “down” that lasts a bit longer than just a week or so. A deadline, a confrontation with a co-worker or friend, a period of financial strain…these can be stressful, but hardly hold a candle to a prolonged family crisis, a sudden drop in income, a tough long-term project at work demanding more energy and time than a normal situation or strained interpersonal relations with co-workers or a boss.

So where do I start?

First things first, you need to sit yourself down (pretend you’re the parent, trying to talk to your five-year old) and find out how you are currently reacting to the stress.

Example:
I had to ask myself how I was reacting to my new job circumstances. I answered this way:

  • Eating less: I’m trying so hard to do a brilliant job, that I forego meals. Not out of choice, but when I do finally realise I am hungry, the day is almost done and therefore close to dinner.
  • Sleeping less: I am getting up earlier and earlier to try and get more and more done.
  • I have more tummy trouble: most possibly related to my new eating habits and inability to realise I need to relax.
  • I’m more agitated: because I’m tired and wound up tighter than a Grandfather clock.

You’ll notice that all my answers were practical. No emotional answer will give you a clear idea of how to handle what you are doing wrong. For instance, saying “I am crying a lot” a good observation, but it isn’t the source of the problem. You might be crying more because you are exhausted, because you are not sleeping well.

Great! Now we have tangible problem areas. Second step would be to work out a way to fix them. Take one problem point at a time and if they are granular enough, you should be able to see the solution easily.

From this analysis I could see that I needed to focus on my meal times, which in effect became my break times. I also made sure to have them away from my desk to stop the temptation to work-and-eat. I get up at 9 to make tea and chat to a friend for 15minutes. 12 or 1 I eat lunch in the Pause area at work. At 1:30 or 2 I get up for tea again and a light conversation about work or life in general. I bought some camomile and chai tea and a good eBook and now spend the last hour before bed reading with a hot cup of my favourite tea.

The result: I am more relaxed at work; I am more constructively busy and actually get a lot more done without having to redo almost everything. I am sleeping better, eating better and now even have time to exercise…I am losing weight and feeling awesome.

The situation didn’t change. The project is still stressful and the deadlines are still tight, but I find myself more physically, mentally and emotionally capable to deal with the day’s stress.

What is your long-term stress? Need a little help? Download the stress-effect chart and strap down that rodeo-bull that seem to be running away with you. Also, if you want to give feedback on how we can better the chart, feel free.

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