You’re burnt out from studying, exhausted from work and you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day. Not only that, but you’ve had to contend with months of COVID-19 anxiety and the stress of lockdown, social distancing and changes at work. You just want some time to catch your breath but can’t even leave the house to do so!
We’re all prone to stress. It’s normal. But if we don’t manage our stress, it can really take its toll on our mental and physical well being; particularly during this turbulent time.
In this article, we’ll explain:
· Why tackling stress is so important
· How to maximise your time (and minimise unnecessary stress)
· How to beat stress and maintain your well being
Ready? Let’s do this!
The problem is that, in our modern society, stress is often ongoing. When our “fight or flight” response is repeatedly triggered, it stops being useful to our survival and starts to become harmful. If we don’t take steps to tackle stress, it can go from being tolerable to toxic. Ongoing stress affects our immune system and compromises both our physical and mental health.
The best way to beat stress is to prevent it – and one of the best ways to prevent unnecessary stress is to manage your time more effectively. Here are our top five time management tips (and some tools to help you):
Have you ever gotten to the end of uni break and wondered where the weeks went? Like me, you probably ended up killing time because you didn’t have a routine. Planning what you need to do each day will help you use your time more efficiently - and a solid morning routine can really kickstart your day!
Recommended app: Habitify lets you set daily habits and stay on track.
Creating a simple to-do list can help you identify what you want and need to achieve. But make sure you keep it realistic – you don’t want an overwhelming to-do list to become another source of stress! Identify the two or three tasks that are most important for the day and prioritise these. Anything else that you achieve is a bonus.
Recommended app: Todoist is a simple yet powerful to-do list app that helps you stay on top of your to-do list, no matter where you are or what kind of device you use.
Whether it’s a major uni assignment or a big project at work, large tasks can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Breaking down tasks into smaller parts will make things more manageable and help you make steady progress towards your goal. And if you like ticking things off your to-do list, this will definitely be a motivation booster.
Recommended app: Trello lets you organise, label and prioritise tasks whichever way you like, using customisable “boards”. Although it was designed to be a project management app, its flexibility and simplicity makes it perfect for almost any task.
It may seem like you’re getting more done, but multi-tasking usually results in less productivity. Rather than trying to do three things at once, try focusing only on the tasking at hand. Set aside a realistic amount of time, put your phone down and close Facebook. A solid hour without distractions will usually be far more productive than two hours in front of the TV.
Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. At some point, you’ll need to learn to decline opportunities. Whether it’s taking on more work or fitting plans into your (already packed) weekend, saying no can help you avoid burnout.
While some stress can be reduced with careful time management, a lot of stressors are beyond our control. Starting a new job, moving house and experiencing family problems are all common triggers for stress. Although you may not be able to change these things, there are a few important things that you can do to reduce their impact.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to counteract the effects of stress. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good endorphins that reduce stress, ward off anxiety and boost your overall mood. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress.
Any physical activity will help, and even a leisurely walk outside can do wonders. However, if you really want that endorphin rush, find a higher intensity form of exercise that will get your heart rate up for 30 minutes (and aim to stick to it at least three times a week).
Pro tip: if you’re yet to find your fitness calling (and the thought of jumping into a gym membership is a little daunting), try some home workouts to start with. Jumping on YouTube to find the home workout that feels right for you is the best first step! Once we’re out of lockdown, it can also be worth trying ClassPass. Purchasing ClassPass credits will give you access to fitness classes across a range of different studios, so you can try everything from barre to ballet and boxing. And you’re not locked in to any contracts!
If you’re anything like me, stress will usually make you reach for a pizza and the nearest bottle of wine. However, eating your feelings is not the solution – and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar will make you feel worse in the long run. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and steer clear of excessive alcohol. Your body will thank you in the long run!
Pro tip: if you’re short on time (or meal-planning is another source of stress for you), try a meal kit delivery service like HelloFresh. You can choose a subscription that suits your needs, and have fresh ingredients for easy-to-follow recipes delivered to your door (without having to resort to UberEats again).
Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness, focusing on the present and accepting your thoughts and feelings. By practicing techniques like mindful breathing, you can lower your physiological stress response, improve your mood and increase your body’s ability to cope with pain.
While daily meditation and yoga might not be your cup of tea, everybody can benefit from incorporating mindfulness techniques into their daily lives. Next time you feel yourself getting stressed, take a couple of minutes to pause, focus on your breathing and re-centre.
Pro tip: if you’re new to mindfulness, try Headspace. The app includes targeted meditations for stress and anxiety, self esteem and dozens of other topics. You can also work your way up, from brief minute-long meditations to daily half hour sessions.
Muscular tension is one of the most common symptoms of stress - and massage is one of the best ways to help alleviate it. Getting a message can help ease aches and pains, improve your sleep and promote relaxation. Yes, you have our permission. Book yourself into a spa or massage parlour and treat yourself.
With so many people working from home (or on the go), it’s more important than ever to separate your personal and professional life. Set work boundaries and make sure you set aside time for the things that you need (whether that’s time with friends and family or time alone to recharge).
A problem shared is a problem halved, and talking to a family member or friend can often help you cope with stress. However, don’t be afraid to speak to a professional either. Most workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that allow you to access free counselling sessions for personal and work-related issues.
Finally, if stress is causing other issues like depression or anxiety, make sure you speak to your GP. Maintaining good mental health should be a top priority. You may also be eligible for a mental health care plan, which will give you access to subsidised sessions with a psychologist.
Like we said, stress can really take its toll on your physical and mental health. Particularly when we’re in the midst of just a casual global pandemic. But if you take our advice, you’ll be well on your way to maximising your time and minimising your stress.
Stay tuned for upcoming topics or check out or other useful articles here. We’ve got plenty more gold to help you make the leap from top student to top professional!
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