3 Tips to Tailor Your Response to Stress

Stress is a personal thing, thinks Michelle, meaning that owning it and discovering your own coping techniques is an important individual process.

Stress levels vary from day to day, and as things change at work and at home, stress can overcome us and start taking control of our lives. What techniques can people use to limit stress and regain control?

The Right Amount of Stress?

It may seem crazy, but to be honest, I like a little bit of stress. I enjoy working to a deadline and I like knowing that there are things that need to be done. However, too much stress brings the whole carefully constructed plan I have in place, to a crashing halt. When stress gets to be too much:

  • I start shutting down
  • My productivity decreases
  • No amount of sleep stops me from feeling tired
  • And every little thing that happens, gets to me on an emotional level - I get downright teary, and I feel like I'm out of control.

I don't usually feel the state of panic approaching, but when it does, I quickly realise I need to regain control and bring the stress levels back to their optimum - and me back to sanity! Here are 4 strategies I use that might be of some value to you...

  1. Trigger and Relief

Stress hits everyone differently and learning to identify your stressors is the first step to regaining control. I know that having too many people involved in a project can increase stress. Too many people thinking their projects should take priority, and a 'to do list' 4 A4 pages long are all triggers for me.

I'm someone who takes work home with me - even if it's just the emotions or the stress - so finding an activity that I love after work has been a blessing. It means that I can relax when I get home in the evening, leaving me feeling more rested and able to look at the situation more impartially.

For me, this is boxing; give me an hour of physical exertion where I have to concentrate on what my body is doing and not what's running through my mind, gives me a separation between work and home. It's important to find your own outlet, and one that allows you to check your stress at the door.

  1. Coping Mechanisms

I've learned the hard way that not everyone gets, or wants to get, your stress. If stress isn't part of your day-to-day then it can be hard to understand when someone is feeling overwhelmed.

Again, we all deal with stress differently; I get emotional, my partner gets quiet. It can be hard for us to identify with each other, so for me, a big part of coping with stress is to find ways of explaining it that are anecdotal. I need to talk it through, have time to digest the information, and find a plan of attack.

Lists are my friends most of the time and I find that when I have too many things going on, it's a good idea to take the time to rewrite the 'to-do list', with the highest priority items at the top. I also find it cathartic to cross things off - sometimes it's the simple things that help.

  1. Owning Your Stress

Part of the process for me has been learning to OWN my own stress - the person who wants their project tomorrow is applying pressure, I'm the one feeling stress. It's not their responsibility to alleviate my stress, it's mine.

But, in order to alleviate that stress, I need to remove the pressure, so discussions need to be had. Do I need deadlines moved? Do I need projects reassigned? Do I need help? Do I need training? In order to regain control, I need to identify what will help and figure out a way to make it happen.

Personal Pressure

Stress is personal, so I wouldn't begin to think that what works for me would work for someone else, but it might help them identify what works for them.

Word of advice, if you find yourself talking to a colleague who's experiencing a high level of stress - avoid phrases like, 'just stay clam' or 'relax', these tend to have the exact opposite effect to what you intend!

Michelle Barr, Communications Manager, Auntie of two