As we approach the end of the year many of us can feel a build up of pressures at work and at home. We may have work deadlines before Christmas, children may have increased assessment demands in term 4, there is the house to tidy and prepare before our holiday events, and increased time driving family members to rehearsals, training, sporting competitions and other end of year events. Many of us are facing a peak in activity/demands at this time of year and are managing it with less than a full tank of petrol. So, given its mental health week, let’s consider what we can do to keep our engines running smoothly and get us to the end of the year safely.
Take a look at the next three months. What have you got on? Sit down with your boss and your family (perhaps not at the same time!) and plan out your commitments. Identify peak periods of business and see what resources you might need to help you meet the demands effectively. This might mean asking others for assistance, and taking things off your plate that aren’t necessary. Focus on the “must do’s” rather than all the “should do’s”. Planning ahead brings the benefit of giving you and others the time to make necessary arrangements to support you or your loved ones and it reduces the potential for stressful, last-minute crises. Taking some time to plan out your calendar will save you stress in the long run.
We all have stressors in our lives – whether its financial, health-related, work-related, interpersonal or just not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. Our approach to these stressors can make all the difference in terms of how these situations affect us.
Every find yourself worrying about things you have little control over? Getting stressed about things like what other people think, decisions made by those high above us in the corporate tree, or what the weather will do only drain our energy. If you find yourself worrying about things you can’t control, remember we have two choices when faced with a stressor that we can’t change. Either we accept it or we adapt to it. Accepting a stressor doesn’t mean we have to like it, but we accept that it is there. Rather than stressing out over the uncontrollable situation, focus on the things you can control such as the way you can respond to the problem. Ask yourself what changes might I need to make the best of this situation? Is there an opportunity to learn something here? Are there some benefits to adapting positively to this situation? Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
If we are worried about something we can control, the key to success is taking action. We can choose to either avoid it or alter the situation. There are some situations which are just better avoided in order to maintain our mental health. For instance, avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit or cease spending time with them. If the news on TV makes you anxious, change the channel or turn off the TV. Avoid hot topics –if you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, excuse yourself when that topic comes up.
If there are situations that you are aware cause you stress, plan how you can alter the situation to make it feel more manageable. Be prepared to assert yourself and share your feelings. When we communicate our feelings to someone in a respectful and non-blaming way (e.g. “When X happens, I feel Y. I’d prefer it If we could do Z in future”). This can help to open up channels of communication, learn something new (eg how the issue arose in the first place) and what to do about it. Don’t forget to be willing to compromise - If we ask something of someone else, be prepared to offer something in return.
If we can’t alter the situation, perhaps we can alter our expectations. Expecting perfection can really tie us up and prevent us from starting or finishing tasks. Test out your expectations with others – is what you are telling yourself you must achieve reasonable? Boost your confidence by reflecting on when you have achieved something similar in the past and take forward some of the strategies or skills you have used before.
There is nothing like a good belly laugh to make us feel better. Finding the funny side of things and even having a laugh at ourselves can be a great way to detach from negative experiences and move on in a light-hearted way. Try and take some time in this busy period to stop and enjoy something – even for a few minutes – and be in the moment. Really see how beautiful the garden is, really taste that muffin, or enjoy that cuddle. Setting aside time to relax is and take a break from all the demands of life recharges our batteries.
We all know what we “should be doing” – exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding excessive use of drugs and alcohol. When we’re stressed healthy habits sometimes exit stage left. However, this is when we need them the most! Consider what healthy habits make you feel good? Is there room in your day to fit in some exercise to your daily routine (eg take the stairs not the lift) or find some way to be active that you find enjoyable (e.g. a social sport, walking, dancing, yoga, boxing). Exercise can help us “clear our heads” and release some stress. Eating well can also set our bodies up for success and provide sustained energy. Are there some healthy recipes you like that you could prepare to help fuel your body and mind?
Why not try a few of these ideas and sail into the end of the year feeling like you have achieved a lot, managed stress well and feel connection with people you care about. If you’d like more support in managing stress, perhaps call your GP, or contact us at Ramsay Psychology. When you’re ready, we’re ready.