How to Manage Self-Inflicted Stress

Stress has an enormous psychological and physical impact on all of us at one time or another, impacting several areas of our life at home or in the workplace.

As unique as our DNA is, what one person finds stressful isn’t necessarily what someone else will find stressful – and if they do, their tolerance threshold will likely be different. If stress can come from a variety of sources, are we responsible in some way for the extent to which we suffer from stress? And how can we manage self inflicted stress? No one already suffering from stress, wants to hear that they are in some way responsible for the situation that they are in. Although we must verbalise when we are feeling stressed, long-term, instead of being reactive, we need to explore the root causes of stress and what part we can play in taking responsibility for managing it going forward.

Ditching Bad Habits Developed in Lockdown

Most of us did what we could to work and home-school during the lockdown. We were all in a holding pattern that was new and did not represent our life before. But now we’re two years on and for many of us our working routines have not necessarily returned to pre-pandemic patterns.

In addition, there may be some poor habits we developed during the pandemic that we are still holding onto that are compounding stress. We may need to examine habitual behaviour that we have developed and look to reduce or eliminate these bad habits.

During the lockdown, there was a spike in alcohol and drug consumption, and an increase in smoking. Poor habits manifested in other ways too, such as addictions to exercise, online shopping, computer games and gambling. In some cases we have not shaken these off. There are other more subtle changes that may also be impacting our quality of life:

  • Starting work earlier and finishing later for those who work at home
  • Skipping face-to-face meetings and social events because there is no obligation to attend
  • Spending too much time on social media and the news
  • Snacking at our desks and not exercising enough
  • Going to bed later and waking up later because some of us don’t have to travel.

Pressure to return to old ways of living and working

As we continue to live through ‘the covid-catch up’, life seems to have picked up a pace that we’re not used to. There is pressure to do everything because we missed out on so much, but this is in fact applying unnecessary pressure and causing overwhelm. Learning to say no to social invites is an important element of managing our stress. As demands increase with a return to work, it is more important than ever that our social life outside of work is joyful, rather than feeling like an overwhelming chore.

We can slip into old habits of thinking that we must get lots done during our working day and home life. Look at your to-do list in both environments; is it too long? How much can we realistically achieve in a day? In periods such as the summer holiday, working parents feel additional pressure to get ahead so that they can juggle their children’s activities and work. We need to remember that this pressure is often coming entirely from within.

The crossover between work and home has become more marked as many of us operate hybrid working models. It is, therefore, more important than ever to manage boundaries and stress. Be mindful that you are not agreeing to unrealistic deadlines because you feel the need to please others. It is highly unlikely that your boss or work colleagues are so dictatorial that you can’t say when a deadline is not feasible. How you manage feeling overwhelmed at work is about understanding where it comes from to prevent stress.

Stress Caused by Social media

Whilst social media is an exceptionally powerful and useful tool, and scrolling through our phones can be a way to relax in the evenings or on our breaks, if it is not properly managed it can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. The problem with the videos and images we see on social media is they are a snapshot of someone’s life. By default, people only post the most alluring parts of their lives – the parties, the holidays, the new haircuts, and exciting news and milestone events. There is nothing wrong with this, but it simply shows the significent, positive aspects and none of the daily grind, struggles or unhappiness. This is understandable because nobody wants to see a feed filled with anger, negativity, and depressing news. If you are already feeling stressed and worried, however, it can make you feel inadequate and question why you are not experiencing the same joy.

There were many posts during the pandemic in which people used #furloughlife or #lockdownlife with images of people sitting in hot tubs or sunbathing seemingly loving every minute of an incredibly challenging situation. However, there were many of us struggling financially, not enjoying home-schooling or grieving because of the separation from family and friends who saw these posts and wondered why others were coping when they weren’t.

So, how can we start to develop strategies to manage all these potential sources of stress?

Tips for Managing Self-inflicted Stress

Take a hiatus from social media

It may feel alien at first but you’re not missing out on anything. It’s an opportunity to switch your brain off from constant information that can be negative.

Remove work emails from your phone

Ensure that you create boundaries and manage expectations around when you are available for work conversations

Create a manageable to-do list

This means setting yourself realistic goals, not a lengthy overly ambitious list that will make you feel inadequate or more stressed if you don’t cross it all off.

Make the time to relax

We are all guilty of thinking if we keep going, we will get more done, and this will be productive. In truth, we must carve out time to relax and recharge.

Ensure your diet and exercise contribute to your wellbeing

What you put in you get out. Is our food fuelling us or something we eat to fill a hole or make us feel better? Exercise releases endorphins and chemicals in the brain like serotonin that we know help to combat stress.

Build a support network

Ensure you have people around you both at work and in your personal life that make you feel good and can help when you need to communicate challenges you’re facing.

Spend time in nature

There is a reason why people refer to getting some fresh air; being outdoors can really help you to recharge and get perspective.

In modern life, stress is inevitable, but we can learn to deal with those stress factors by working on the strategies we put in place to manage situations.

With financial forecasts predicting that life is going to get even harder with the cost of living increasing daily, these stress factors are likely to become more frequent. So, now is the time to proactively work on correcting and adjusting behavioural patterns that may not be serving us right now.

There are some great practical tips taken from Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book, ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’, you can find a short summary of them by clicking here and downloading, Secrets to Success for free.