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Stress-busting techniques from Professor Cooper, an expert on resilience and wellbeing.
If you have a stress-related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling
There’s a solution to any problem. If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse. That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your troubles and help you see things in a different way. Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems. If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise. Set aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work extra on those days.
Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build which in turn will help you deal with stress. Constantly challenging yourself means you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life which makes you feel more positive.
Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. It’s like putting your head in the sand. It might provide temporary relief but it won’t make the problems disappear.
Evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective. The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.
On a more basic level, do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues. Favours cost nothing to do, and you’ll feel better.
Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long-hours culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. You have to get a work-life balance that suits you. Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. Leave the least important tasks to last. Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.
Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well or for which you’re grateful. Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty. Make a conscious effort you can train yourself to be more positive about life. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective, you may see your situation from a more positive point of view.
Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. If this is the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over.