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.

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.

no such thing as a stress-free life

There’s no such thing as a stress-free life?

I’ve decided to start writing this blog, not only because there might be someone who can benefit from it, but also to get myself to pen down the myriads of ways I see people cope with stress and distressing situations. I am learning from so many people around me and would love to share this with you.

In my career, as a fast-paced designer who asks a lot of herself and a freelance business owner I regularly meet people who have peculiar ways of dealing with their stress. For some their ways of dealing with stress is completely successful. For others, there might be need of a bit of tweaking in their efforts. All and all I find myself giggling at some and stand bemused at others. Why not pen them down, even if it only serves as a memoir to myself in the end.

We all know by now that the right amount of stress at the right time can be great. It enhances your concentration and sharpens your senses so that you can perform at your peak for a certain situation. Long-term stress however, can be detrimental to your health. Everything in your body needs balance and it is this balance that better equips you to deal with little stresses and problems during the day. When situations make you stress for a prolonged period of time, not allowing your body the normal ebb and flow of rhythm, it cannot heal itself to make you ready for the next attack. Consequently, over time even the smallest problem will make your cup overflow and nobody around you will know why you are “overreacting”. The truth is, to you, it was just the cherry on the double-dark-chocolate-fudge-mousse cake.

Everything in life has a rhythm. Not only your body, like we mentioned just now, but also life itself goes through tides. You will know that there are happy times and troubled times. On a macro scale we can look at times of peace and war. On a micro scale you can look at relatively quiet times in the office and times with tight deadlines. What has caught my attention is the flow of prosperous times versus problematic times in my life. All aspects from emotional, physical, financial and spiritual life get tested. Sometimes all at once (very stressful times), other times we can handle one problem at a time, fine-tuning our ability to master our ability to handle a certain problem.

You are going through your own ebbs and flows. You are most possibly reading this because you are also looking for ways to handle this tide in your life. All I can say is that it stays a journey. But every journey thankfully has a destination and like a close friend of mine like to say: if it isn’t good, it isn’t the end yet.

I plan to have fun with this. If you have ways to handle stress and would like to share them with me, feel free to post a comment and share it with the world.