Why Managing Stress is Critical and Five Easy Methods to Use
There’s no doubt about it: proposals are stressful. We are constantly battling deadlines, putting out fires, overcoming roadblocks, and solving problems. And those are just the stressors we deal with at work. Compounded with the stresses we deal with in our personal lives, these things can start to take a toll on our well-being.
Although we all know about stress—and generally recognize its symptoms—we don’t always take the time to actively manage the stress that we deal with on a daily basis. While a small amount of stress can be positive and motivate you to prepare or perform, like when you interview for a job or make a presentation, long-term stress can be extremely harmful. Chronic stress can suppress the immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems. Over time, routine stress can contribute to more serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.
Mindfulness and Managing Stress
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the moment while calmly acknowledge things as they really are, without judgement. Mindfulness can help us cope with daily stressors by supporting self-awareness and emotional balance. Self-Awareness can help you recognize symptoms of stress so you can actively respond and help mitigate longer-term effects. Symptoms of stress you might notice include feeling yourself getting physically hotter, having a warm or electric feeling in your forehead, or feeling your heart beat faster. You might also notice rigid shoulders, stiff legs, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, and/or hunger.
When you notice these symptoms, it’s so important to find ways to actively manage the stress. These may include taking a break from the stressor, exercising, smiling and laughing, seeking social support, and/or meditating.
Take a Break From the Stressor
When you feel yourself getting stressed, you should give yourself permission to step away. Allow yourself time to do something else—even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Take a walk and get new perspective, grab some coffee, or read an article.
Exercise is a great way to manage stress because it pumps the body with endorphins (i.e., feel-good hormones). Exercise serves as meditation in motion and can successfully improve your mood. However, when we’re busy, finding time to exercise can be stressful in and of itself! Some ways to work exercise into your daily routine include: parking at the back of the parking lot; standing up to take phone calls; going for a walk at lunch; taking the stairs; stretching/exercising at your desk; and walking to the break room, water cooler, or restroom every 60 minutes. I’m also a huge fan of working in quick, 15-minute, do anywhere circuits into my before- and/or after-work routine.
Smile and Laugh
This is one of my favorite ways to manage stress. When I researched this topic originally, I discovered that our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When we are stressed, we often hold a lot of the stress in our faces. So it makes perfect sense that laughs or smiles can help relieve some of that tension. Some ways we can actively reduce this tension in our faces are: read a funny blog, article, or comic; befriend a funny person at work; watch a funny show; and simply set the intent to laugh and smile more. Read more tips on how to smile and laugh more here.
Get Social Support
Sometimes it is helpful to get social support so you can share your concerns or feelings with another person. When you are stressed, take the time to call a friend or send an email. If you have time to meet in person, lunches, dinners, and happy hours are great environments to talk about your stressors and get advice on how to cope. But make sure to choose someone whom you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone you know, you can try out a counselling or therapy service. These services are private, typically a google search away, and are often at least partially covered by your medical insurance.
Meditation helps the mind and body to relax and focus and promotes mindfulness. It helps you see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and forgiveness, and release emotions that may have been causing your body physical stress. One of my favorite forms of meditation is deep breathing. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promotes a state of calmness, helps you feel connected to your body, and brings your awareness away from the stress to quiet your mind. I like to use a guided breathing app on my phone, but you can also try the 4-7-8 breathing technique, where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds.
Because we deal with so many stressors on a daily basis, it’s critical that we take take the time to actively manage that stress. While a small amount of stress can be positive and motivate you perform, long-term stress can be extremely harmful. Over time, routine stress can contribute to serious health problems. Proactively managing stress can help prevent these negative effects so that we can continue to thrive in the workplace and outside of it. By practicing mindfulness, we can begin to recognize early symptoms of stress and engage in activities to help manage it. Next time you are feeling stressed, try a method that works well for you, whether it’s simply stepping away, making time for some exercise, calling a friend for social support, practicing deep breathing, or something else. Remember that your health and wellbeing are far more important than any work result, deadline, or issue.
Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)
References and Resources
American Psychological Association
Key Step Media
Medical News Today
National Institute of Mental Health
Reader’s Digest Best Health