Managing stress and overload

Most people have at least some stress in their lives. But stress becomes a problem when there’s a mismatch between the load on a person and their ability to cope with it. While we can’t always control the amount we have on our plate, we can all learn techniques to increase our coping abilities. Here are some tips on how to improve yours.

Balance your activities

Our day-to-day obligations are usually the biggest drain on our time. For those with multiple obligations, taking time to ‘recharge’ might seem like a luxury you can’t afford. This is a common trap to fall into, but the reality is that recharging your batteries will increase your coping ability and make you much more effective at getting things done. Don’t see it as a waste of time, see it as a means to achieving more.

‘Recharge’ activities are the things you do for pleasure that make you feel relaxed, fulfilled or give you a sense of achievement. This might be listening to music, playing sport, doing something creative or socialising with friends.

Prioritise

When prioritising your tasks, deciding what goes on the back burner list isn’t the hard bit. The hard bit is learning to say ‘no’. Even if this is a challenge at first, it will get easier in time. Consider what can be delegated, what can be delayed and what may not need doing at all. Even doing this with two or three things on your to-do list might make all the difference.

Let go of perfectionism

If you’re a bit of a perfectionist, letting someone else complete a task for you might seem as stressful as doing it yourself. But doing everything yourself is a recipe for overload. If you find yourself hesitating to delegate for this reason, or spending too much time on your own tasks, it’s time to start loosening the reins on your perfectionism.

This doesn’t mean you have to dramatically drop your standards. You can still do a good job without going over everything with a fine-toothed comb. And if your job requires a particularly high level of accuracy, think about whether you’re applying the same quality standards to your personal life. You may be a surgeon, but you don’t have to stitch the button back onto your coat with medical precision.

Check yourself thinking the worst

Another common factor which keeps stress going is what we call ‘thinking the worst’, along the lines of ‘If I don’t get x (task) done, y (disaster) will definitely happen’. If you find yourself thinking this way, stop and give yourself a quick reality check. How likely is it really to happen? Is there any evidence that it’ll happen? And if it did, would it really be so bad?

For further help, you might want to try our module Managing Stress and Overload, available on our app. If stress is becoming a long-term problem for you, it might be time to speak to your doctor.