What better day to kick off my new theme in Stress Management than on the busiest shopping day of the year. So let’s define stress in basic, scientific terms:
“Stress is a biological and psychological response experienced on encountering a threat that we feel we do not have the resources to deal with” Saul McLeod, Psychology lecturer at The University of Manchester, author of simplypsychology.org
McLeod goes on to say that when we experience long term stresses spanning over several hours, days or weeks hormones are released to maintain a steady supply of blood sugar to keep us going. You could say that we are built to cope with stress and can even thrive under it. The body even suppresses our immune system in this mode; ever wondered why you always get sick on Christmas day? Stress had your immune system in overdrive, fighting off the flu, up until the point you relax.
So a few pointers for stress management in the silly season:
- The feeling of control slipping out of your fingers; the tipping point beyond which nothing makes sense is a horrid whirlwind of craziness that should be avoided at all costs, but come the moment when that starts to happen, spare a thought for your delightful adrenal gland keeping you going.
- Stress may be manageable in small doses but don’t let it go on for long (You want sherry not Lemsip on Boxing Day, right?). If you know you are stressed: STOP. Stop everything, just for 10 minutes. Walk away, take a pad of paper, sit in a room by yourself, leave your phone on your desk.
- Use the 10 minutes to write down what is really important about this day or week. Also write down the things that can be ignored, even if it’s just for a short while. If time is your most critical resource then your diary, especially your work diary, is like your bank account; go back to your desk and cancel non-critical meetings, block out time to work on critical things, and leave an hour for lunch (your body’s got to get blood sugar from somewhere).
- Don’t behave like this every day. Stress clouds our ability to make normal decisions so this is just a reaction to help keep those emotions under control. Once peace is restored you can start going to non-critical meetings and apologise to the people you’ve been ignoring!
I always feel slightly nervous about giving out time management advice on my blog posts because I can only write it from one perspective. I only offer one-to-one coaching sessions for this reason, all advice should be tailored to the individual and this post cannot be tailored. As a result, I’d love to hear your experiences of stress and any comments you have about this advice below.