Working in a high-pressure environment is one of the largest contributors to increased stress levels. Throw in a pandemic, a young family and other household responsibilities and our stress levels can contribute to poor physical and mental health outcomes if left unchecked for long periods.
Stress levels - to a degree - can be managed* with timely interventions, applying some, or all of the techniques outlined below into our daily routine.
If done right, journaling forces and allows us to examine our behaviours and patterns - rather than letting them. We can make journaling purposeful and reflective by answering some of these questions:
• What worked well for me today?
• What could I have done differently, and how?
• What small step did I take to today or will I take tomorrow to get started to (i) solve a big problem, (ii) learn something new. (iii) set me up on a path to a new goal?
• Were my actions today reflective of the person I want to become?
• Was I deliberate with my decisions, or did I let life happen to me?
We all have good days and bad days, but falling into the trap of having a victim’s mentality can be a downward spiral
The purpose of practicing gratitude (and this hack can be integrated with journaling) is to be grateful for what we have or have achieved so far in our journey, but not at the expense of our ambitions or desires
Gratitude can significantly improve our health and wellbeing if practiced regularly (daily, if possible), and can include anything from your health, the health of your loved ones, having Wi-Fi at home (who isn’t grateful for this) or the comfort of having a roof over your head tonight.
As part of your journaling practice, include a gratitude list of at least 5 things – no matter how big or small – that you’re grateful for
This needn’t be a gruelling workout, but a moderate exercise – 30 mins a day, 5 days a week – that roughly amounts to 2.5 hours every week.
Whether this means taking a walk, going for a run, riding a bike, hitting the gym, doing yoga or just playing!
If you’re struggling for time – and we all are – try one or a combination of the following hacks:
• Instead of scrolling mindlessly through your social media first thing when you wake up, try a morning workout (or a walk)
• Have a walking meeting at work
• Get out of the office for lunch or after lunch (leave the phone behind!)
• Catching public transport? Skip a station
Aside from the physical benefits, movement can help manage depression symptoms, and can pay dividends in your profession by improving your cognitive ability, and helping alleviate anxiety and stress.
Feeding your curiosity
The next time you find yourself doomscrolling through YouTube or your social media feed, try typing into YouTube a skill that you’ve wanted to learn, e.g., “How to speak Spanish”, or “How to juggle”
Feeding your curiosity leads to stimulation of neural activity within your brain through the formation of more neural connections. This improves your learning capability and strengthens your mind.
Breaking away from something that is – by design – created to keep you hooked is easier said than done, but this is one of the easiest hacks to act on (but harder to maintain for some) if you find yourself suffering from brain clutter and overwhelm
But disconnecting from social media can:
• Free up your time!
• Free up your mental capacity – to think about the things that matter to you, not the Mediterranean holiday your best friend is on or the restaurant your colleague is dining in
• Reduce stress levels – constant engagement with social media platforms can lead to mental fatigue, depression, and impact your sleep patterns
• Be present, and explore the real world
If you have access to it, we highly recommend a viewing of ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix
To conclude, there are numerous hacks we can incorporate into our lifestyle to manage our stress levels. One can always start with one of the above and stack more hacks every couple of days and build on your progress as a way to integrate the habit into her routine.
*If the steps outlined above aren’t working, it may be worthwhile getting in contact with a medical / mental health professional.