Posts Tagged ‘stress management’

The 12 Stress Less Days to Christmas: Day 4

December 16, 2012

Day #4: Pace yourself


Conserve energy by trying to do the things that are more physically or mentally demanding when you have most energy!

First thing in the morning works for me. Some people peak late morning, others can have more than one energy peak during the day.

Don’t try and do all the physically demanding stuff in one go if you can help it. I aim to intersperse the more mentally draining jobs with simpler admin tasks. When I’m successful with this I find it gives me time to recharge the batteries.

When are your energy peaks? And how are you using them?

The 12 Stress Less Days to Christmas: Day 2

December 14, 2012


Day #2: Focus on the important and urgent things first 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be tempted to do the things you enjoy first, and/or those small tasks that don’t take long.

Either way – you win! You’ve either enjoyed doing the task, or you’ve ticked lots of the smaller tasks off your list, giving you the feeling of more achieved.

This feeling tends to be short-lived and can soon be replaced by a growing sense of anxiety, because the bigger / less desirable things still haven’t been done.

Try this as an approach instead …

Split your Tasks List into 2 columns:

 ‘Important & Urgent’ and ‘Important & Not Urgent’

Put your tasks under the appropriate headings, and tackle the ones under Important & Urgent first. As time moves on the ones under the Not Urgent list will move into the Urgent list, and get done then. Either way, you’re giving the important stuff greater priority than perhaps you’d done before.

Things that are large tasks – split them into smaller ‘bite-sized chunks, and do a bit each day.

If they are tasks that you keep putting off, do them whilst listening to your favourite music, or whilst sat in a really comfortable chair, or change your environment in some other way to make the task more palatable.

Alternatively – if all else fails, take the plunge and just do it! Just do it

Don’t waste time thinking about how you feel about doing it, or coming up with lots of excuses  (guilty, m’Lord!)

Enjoy ticking those trickier tasks off your list! 🙂

The 12 Stress Less Days to Christmas: Day 1

December 13, 2012

CDay #1: Decide that this year you’re going to stress less about the things you have no control over!

You can’t control the weather, the queues, other people’s demands, the cost of the latest iPad, etc.

But you can control your preparation and your response to these things.

1. Be prepared for colder mornings

Factor in an extra 10 mins each morning to defrost the car, and make sure you have plenty of windscreen wash – including a spare bottle of it in the boot!

Also allow a couple of extra minutes to put on any additional layers you’ll need too.

2. Accept that queues are part and parcel (excuse the pun!) of the season

Use any time that you’re stuck in a queue to plan something; e.g. your Christmas present wish list! Or use it to practise something you need to present at work … anything other than stressing about how long it’s taking to clear this queue.

I’ve started singing along to all the Christmas songs that are now firmly embedded into many radio programmes. I’ve surprised myself with how many words I know!

And here’s a favourite of many …

3. Other people’s stress doesn’t need to add to yours

As demands on people’s time increases, those who struggle to manage this can put unintentional pressure on those around them. If you have the time and energy to help, then do so; if it’s going to put you under extra pressure, then politely and assertively decline requests with:

“Sorry I can’t right now, I’m just in the middle of something”

“That’s not a good time for me. How about ….” (suggest a time that puts you under less pressure)

The first step in reducing your stress levels at this time of year is recognising the things that cause stress for you (see #2 Know your limits). Once you do this, you’re in a better position to act to be stress-free!

More tomorrow …

How’s your resilience holding up?

July 2, 2012

During periods of constant change or excessive pressure, what often keeps us going is our resilience.

Resilience = the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or having a level of toughness.

So how do you top up your resilience levels?

… By celebrating all your ‘wins’ – even the smallest?

… By keeping up with regular exercise to reduce stress levels?

… Or by giving yourself something to look forward to?

A recent publication from the University of Nottingham states that rather than focusing on managing stress, it would be more productive to work on fostering resilience. They suggest that context is important and would account for why some teachers suffer stress as a result of the demands of the job, whilst others don’t.

Whilst coaching a Head Teacher recently, resilience came up in our discussion. She commented that resilience for her was about deflecting unwanted situations, and being able to bounce back when you couldn’t deflect them. Deflecting unwanted situations (particularly potentially stressful ones) can be dealt with using assertive responses. Things you can’t deflect are often things you have no control over.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …” (Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)

Here are my Top 3 Tips for Building resilience for things you can’t change …

Build good focus

Focusing on the negative stuff and the things you can’t do anything about is counter-productive. Don’t drain your already depleted energy levels this way. Focus on the things you can do something about. Focus on what you do well, and do these things at every opportunity!

Build optimism

Find a positive perspective from which to view the situation (e.g. I can’t change the new OFSTED framework, but I can use it to help refine and improve elements of my practice). Look for opportunities to create a positive outcome; remind yourself of your strengths and resources to help you do this. Tell any negative thoughts that work their way into your mind that you haven’t got time for them!

Build flexibility

See things you cannot change as a positive challenge, and use flexibility to find a range of options that are potential solutions to the challenge. The more flexible you are, the more in control you will feel.

So how do you build and maintain your resilience?


Planning for a stress-free summer

April 16, 2012

As we embark on a new term, the last of this academic year, what are your thoughts about how it will unfold?

Are they filled with excitement, enthusiasm and energy?

Or do you start like this, then the enthusiasm wanes when an excess of external (or internal) pressures arise?

The school summer term is often a very busy one, usually packed out with  last minute exam preparation and administration, teacher assessments, school performances, trips, sports days … not to mention report writing and parent’s evenings.

When I taught full time, I’d start with great enthusiasm but this could often wane.

So how do you ensure you don’t burn out before you’re even half-way through the term? Here are some ideas that I used to see me all the way through to the end of term:

1. Pace yourself

An obvious one, and perhaps easier said than done. But with a little bit of planning and foresight you can ensure you have maximum energy at key times. As a starting point, on a term planner identify the weeks where you’ll need most energy. Aim to expend less energy in the previous week(s) to build up your reserves.

Also, tell yourself that it’s OK to not be working flat-out every day, all day!

2. Know your limits

This is about knowing when you’ve reached that tipping point where – if you continue – you’ll become ill/stressed. (NB Stress = excess pressure that affects emotional, physical or mental wellbeing and will be different for each of us.)

Address these moments by avoiding any default ‘saying yes to everything’ setting you may have!

3. Create great resilience

How quickly do you bounce back from exposure to sources of stress?

Resilience isn’t something you’re born with, you can develop a capacity for resilience given the right work conditions and attitude.

Practise techniques to de-pressurise situations, establish realistic expectations of your role, and take advantage of challenges – turn them into personal growth opportunities – this will help to make future similar situations more tolerable.

More on this topic in a forthcoming blog.

4. Adopt a healthy approach
  • Eat food that gives you the most energy
  • Ward off summer colds/viruses by keeping up the Vit C
  • Avoid caffeine late at night as it’ll inhibit a restful sleep. For those nights where you’re working late, go for caffeine-free instead
  • Avoid dehydration – I’ve found that putting a bottle of water somewhere that I pass regularly helps as a reminder (on the desk, by the door …) Take a sip each time you pass (or as often as you can!)
How do you ensure a stress-free (or stress-reduced!) term?

(Photo credits: farconville and Paul)

Say “no” and be respected for it

February 17, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 17

Sometimes it’s hard to say “no”. We may want to, and feel we have a right to, yet we still find ourselves saying “yes” or “OK” and taking on the associated pressures as a result.

I’m going to put this in the context of work, for this blog, but some of the principles / tips can equally be applied out of the workplace.

Under what circumstances might we need to say “no”?

  • we already have enough on our plate
  • we have other, higher priority jobs
  • what we’re being asked to do is not our job / responsibility
  • we are not qualified (or not insured) to do what’s being asked

Perhaps you can think of more to add to this list.

So we know we sometimes need to say no, but why don’t we?

  1. we don’t want to upset or offend the person asking
  2. we’re not sure how to say no positively
  3. we’re afraid of what people might think of us
  4. we are afraid of the response we’ll get
  5. we might not feel we have the right to say no
  6. we’re indecisive
  7. we’re tired / stressed and it’s easier (in the short term!) to say yes
  8. there’s a lack of confidence to say no

Perhaps you have a favourite from the list above? Or have other reasons?

In my role of coaching / training in the workplace, the most common reasons I come across are the top 3 on the list, and the 7th.

Being respected for saying no involves acknowledging your own feelings and rights, whilst responding respectfully to the other person. It involves being assertive, standing up for yourself whilst not attacking or blaming.

Here are some top tips on saying no and being respected for it …

Tip 1 – Smile! When you smile genuinely whilst saying no it’s showing the other person that there’s no malice intended and you are being respectful of them

Tip 2 – Acknowledge their request whilst respecting your own feelings

  • “I appreciate you’re under pressure, and want some help. I’ll be able to help you once I’ve finished this.”
  • “Thanks for thinking of me, but I already have ______ to do”.

Tip 3 – Delay Experience has shown that if you ask the person to come back later, they usually find a way to resolve their problem in the meantime.

  • “Now is not a good time for me. But I can do (this afternoon / tomorrow)”

Often people ask you to do something as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to feeling unable to sort it themselves. They can sound as if they urgently need help, but beware that this could be their way of getting things done by proxy!

Tip 4 – Stand your ground Be consistent with your responses if they persistently keep asking

  • “As I said, I’m unable to help you now, but you’re welcome to try me again in about an hour”

Having worked in a highly stressful environment for many years I understand that saying “yes” can be a good way to help each other, develop team spirit etc. But we need to know where to draw the line. If you’re the one doing all the giving, and this isn’t reciprocated, it can lead to unnecessary pressure on you, which has a knock-on effect on your own productivity levels.

Have you any examples of how you say no to your colleagues?

Have you seen others in the workplace effectively say no?

(Photo courtesy of jscreationzs)