Stress – If we were to look back at the last eighteen months, I would say that it has been the dominant factor in my life, as well as the lives of so many others. Whether it’s been the stress caused by looking after children during a pandemic, the stress caused by working from home and being on videocalls 24/7 or the stress of worrying about loved ones and the frustrations caused by not being able to see them. Or all of the above!
With the vaccine roll-out in full swing here in the UK, the pandemic seems to be moving into a more managable phase and life seems to be slowly returning to some semblance of normality once more. However, the stress and anxiety caused by all of the many commitments we have in our lives does not appear to be going anywhere. If anything, we’re more overwhelmed than ever trying to balance increased social demands on our time, straddling working from home and working back in our shops and offices and dealing with children during the holidays.
Along with our real life responsibilities, we also face the added pressure of trying to juggle our virtual ones as well. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that advances in technology and social media mean that we can never fully switch off from the world. We use video calls and emails for work, messaging and Facetime for friends and family and social media for our own entertainment and supposed ‘downtime’. If we want any peace and quiet in our lives, we have to go out of our way to create it.
Stress is now a prevalent factor in many of our lives to the point where we seem to think that feeling frazzled and overwhelmed is normal. Well, guess what? It’s not normal. A small amount of stress can be useful in helping you to achieve your goals and hit that deadline but carrying a large amount around with you on a daily basis is not healthy or natural – it will just end up making you ill.
As I write this, I’m reminded of that fabulous meme that was going around a few years ago that showed God talking to his angels:-
God: Behold, I have made mankind!
Angels: You fucked up a perfectly good monkey is what you did. Look at it! It’s got anxiety!
The point is, we’re simply not built to carry around a large amount of stress on a day to day basis. As the modern world continues to advance at such a rapid pace, we need to find new techniques for dealing with the stress in our lives and finding ways to feel happier.
We’ve put together some top tips to help you to combat the stress in your life and help you to feel more happier, productive and relaxed. It’s important to identify the areas in your life that are causing you to feel worried, stressed and overwhelmed and start addressing how you can make them better. Life is too short not to enjoy it.
Mindfulness is a great technique to utilise when you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re having a hard time concentrating on a particular task. When you feel as though you just have far too much to do and each concern is battling for space in your brain it can be hard to get anything done. This kind of overwhelm is a real productivity blocker and can lead to you spending more time worrying about doing all the things rather than actually doing them.
Try integrating a degree of mindfulness practice throughout your day to help to focus your mind on the important tasks you want to complete. For example, when having your morning coffee, with each sip really take the time to concentrate on the taste and the heat of the liquid. Notice how the coffee feels in your mouth. Try and filter out all of the sounds and distractions around you and just enjoy the simple act of drinking your coffee. Be present.
Mindfulness is all about being in the moment and really taking the opportunity to let your senses experience every second of what you are doing. Try and practice it whenever you feel like there’s just too much to focus on and you will gradually start to see the results as your brain learns a new way to focus. As a consequence, you’ll feel calmer, more productive and far less stressed about the work ahead.
We love a good list here at So Just Be and can highly recommend them for getting on top of all the areas in your life that are causing you stress. List-making will help you to feel more organised and in control of all of the the things you need to do. It will also help you to get them all done.
We like to make a weekly list, split between categories like ‘Work’, ‘Housework’ and ‘Life Admin’. We generally have a brain dump on a Sunday night and get listing for the week ahead so we know what we need to prioritise and when we have to get each task done by.
Then we create a daily ‘To Do’ list, incorporating our weekly priorities so that we can spread them out over time. We also add all of the unexpected tasks that crop up each day such as ‘finish the report’, ’email Ted’ or ‘Pop out to get milk’. Ticking off each item on the list gives us an immense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. As a result, we feel happier and more in control of the everyday stresses in our lives.
It can be hard to get motivated. Trust me, I know. Procrastination should be my middle name. Ultimately though, by putting something off until the very last minute it needs to get done, you’re just piling more stress on yourself. What we should be doing is looking for opportunities and ‘quick wins’ that will help us get ahead of our tasks, free up our time and help us to feel happier.
Take the opportunity throughout your day to try and do some of the quick, annoying things that are taking up space in your brain. Got cobwebs in the bedroom? Grab the duster and take a few minutes out of your day to just get them removed. Worried about getting a project finished? Take ten minutes a day to look at it and prioritise what you need to do to get it done.
If you know that you’ve got a really busy weekend ahead, then get all of your chores done on Thursday and Friday after work. Then you can relax and enjoy the weekend fun. This kind of action is easier said then done but by choosing just three quick things to do per day, you will slowly get yourself into the habit and build up your productivity throughout the week.
Thinking about how you’re going to do something and when you’re going to do it takes up thinking time and creates more demands on your brain. Establishing certain routines that reduce your choices throughout the week will mean that you have more time to think about the important things in your life.
For example, meal prepping can be a great help in reducing the weekly chores. Just spending one afternoon every weekend and putting together all of the meals for the week could potentially win you back an hour or more every evening. Selecting all of your outfits for the week ahead will free up time for you each morning. Walking your dog at the same time each day gives him a routine and a chance for you to have a daily dose of exercise.
Think about the things that you do on a regular basis and see if there is a way for you to reduce your options and make your life a little easier. You won’t regret it.
Above all else, make sure that you have enough time for yourself during the week. All work and no play isn’t just a motto, it’s a harsh reality of modern life. With so many commitments to meet and responsibilities on our shoulders, it can be really easy to overlook the importance of self-care. Without any time for yourself, your stress will start to overwhelm you, making you feel miserable and put-upon.
Make sure that you carve out some time for yourself on a regular basis so that you can relax, destress and have something to look forward to at the end of the week. Do something you really enjoy – indulge in a favourite hobby, watch your favourite TV show, spend an hour walking in the sunshine or indulge yourself with a pamper session or a candlelit bath. Whatever it is that makes you feel happy, make sure you do it!
We hope that the tips above will help you to get to grips with your stress and put a smile back on your face where it belongs. Remember, life is too short to worry so much so get organised and take back your time!