This month is Stress awareness month, which has been held every April since 1992. It encourages healthcare professionals across the country to join forces and increase public awareness about the causes of and cures for modern stress.
So in this spirit, Intrinsic OT is sharing its knowledge and expertise on managing stress with a two part article. The first part is everything you need to know about stress before you start to tackle and can be found here. Part two below focuses on how stress effects you and how to keep it in check.
Part 2: How to keep stress in check
When it comes to stress the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ is never truer. If you know what stress is, how it works and what it looks like and feels like, it gives you the edge over how to keep it in check. Not to mention makes you feel more in control.
To achieve this there are two elements to consider
- Learning how you response to stress.
- Implementing practice ways to manage stress.
Learning how you respond to stress.
To discover this there is a well-known theory called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and here at Intrinsic OT we use basic Cognitive Behavioural Techniques to understand how you respond to stress. It’s also applicable for many other issues such as anxiety and low mood.
It shows that how we think (cognition) effects the way we feel and then behave. If you can build up this picture during a time when you were/are stressed it can provide some real insights.
Below are two examples of how we might respond to stress. Situation A and B.
Things are piling up at work and you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to get it done. People are relying on you to meet a deadline and have been doing a fair bit of overtime to try and catch your breath. But you still feel as though you are drowning in work.
Thoughts: ‘I can’t do this, it’s too much’ ‘I’m going to let everyone down’
Feelings (emotions): Feel like a failure, like everyone will think badly of you. Feelings of anxiety and a general sense of doom and gloom. Feels out of control. Behaviours: Struggle to sleep at night, snapping at friends/family, isolating yourself at home because you want to be on your own. Struggling to get up in the mornings, and don’t want to go in to work with very low energy.
The situation is pretty rough at work. But the thoughts you have about this shows a lot of about how stress personally affects you. With the example A one of the thoughts is ‘I’m going to let everyone down’. This shows they care a lot about their colleagues which is not a bad thing however ends up personalising stress and making them then feel like a failure. Only adding to the stress.
Things are piling up at work and you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to get it done. People are relying on you to meet a deadline and have been doing a fair bit of overtime to try and catch your breath. But you still feel as though you are drowning at work.
Thoughts: ‘Is it physically possible to get this all done in the hours I am paid?’. ‘I am being put under a lot of pressure’. ‘I need help to get this done’
Feelings (emotions): feels more in control, like you are making the decisions. Feels like you are standing up for what’s right.
Behaviours: You talk to your boss and show the risk of things not getting done because you can’t handle it all alone. You sleep better at night knowing it’s not all on your shoulders. Your energy levels don’t suffer an in fact find yourself still working extra hard because you know you can meet the deadline with a little extra help.
Example B shows someone thinking objectively about stress and not personalising it. You can only physically do so much before it’s out of your control. Knowing what your limits are puts the control back into your hands and allows you to say ‘it’s too much now’. This then means you keep the stress in check.
So when your next feeling stressed why not write out your situation and jot down what kind of thoughts you have. Then think about how these thoughts make you feel and then behave. It might help you learn a lot about how you deal with stress. Like I keep saying, Knowledge is Power!
Implementing practice ways to manage stress.
Understanding how you respond to stress should give you some ideas about ways to manage it. So we’d love to hear from you about what you’ve discovered or simply what you have found helpful over the years – so please do leave us your comments.
There are of course many generic ways of managing stress so here are some Intrinsic OT has found beneficial over the years:
- Know your limits. Know when you are starting to feel stressed and analysis your situation.
- Try not to worry about things which are out of your control. For example if a funding bid is going to be approved or not.
- Prioritise activities by deadline dates.
- Try not to personalise situations at work. You are paid to do a job and you are doing your best.
- Consider what demands you can reduce or ask others to help with
- Make time for yourself. Plan activities which allow to you relax and unwind. Have fun and enjoy time with others.
- If you have a faith you could meditate or pray to bring you feelings of peace and contentment.
- Physical exercise is good for stress. Walk, swim or cycle to find an outlet for any pent up stress.
- Try to limit your responsibilities – it’s okay to say no.
- Positive self-talk is great. Encourage yourself, tell yourself: I can do this, I’ve done it before. Find a positive coping statement that works for you.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and eat regularly. You’re not going to be able to cope with stress very well if your hangry.
- Drink less caffeine and more water.
And finally, if you find your thoughts are generally quite negative especially when you’re stressed, try thinking differently. Instead of telling yourself ‘things are never going to get any better’ or ‘I can’t do this, I’m going to fail’….try challenging those thoughts. Ask yourself some check and challenge questions such as:
- Is this fact or opinion?
- How helpful is it for me to think this way?
- Am I getting things out of proportion?
- Am I underestimating my ability to cope?
- Is there another way of looking at this?
- What advice would I give someone else in this situation?
- Am I putting more pressure on myself?
I really hope this two part article has shared some knowledge on stress and helped in the battle against modern stress. To find out more about Intrinsic OT and what we offer employees check out our website www.intrinsicot.co.uk