27 Feb 2007

(2) Manage Stress Before It Manages You!


The stress busters below, tell you some positive ways to cope with stress.

Stress Busters!
1. Plan your time well
Keep a daily planner. Give priority to the most important activities and do them first. Break large demands into small, manageable parts. Work through one task at a time. Decide how much time you need for each job. Be careful not to overorganise. Leave some room for flexibility and spontaneity. Planning ahead helps you to complete the tasks you have prioritised. This allows you to have a sense of achievement for the tasks you have completed.

2. Be realistic about what you can do
Choose your work according to your own abilities and interests. Focus on what you can do and not for the impossible. Set goals that are achievable so you don't become frustrated or discouraged.

3. Spread out the major changes in your life
Give yourself time to adjust from one change to another. For example, avoid changing jobs, buying a car or a flat all at the same time.

4. Speak to someone about your problems
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Sharing your worries and concerns with your spouse, family, friend, supervisor or religious leader helps relieve your emotional burden and provides with you with emotional support. Try joining relevant support groups in your community. Call a helpline if you need to speak to a counsellor.

5. Interact with your family and friends
Family and friends are a key component of your life. They provide you with friendship, love and support in times of need. Set aside some time each day to talk and relax together.

6. Learn to like yourself and think positive
Be happy with who you are. Keep a positive attitude and outlook in life. This helps you to accept what you cannot change and make the best of what you have. Don’t be overly concerned about your looks. If you are concerned about your weight, speak to your doctor or a nutritionist, who would be able to assess your weight status and give advice on weight management, if necessary.

7. Keep healthy
Keep your body healthy and fit by exercising regularly, eating wisely and getting enough sleep. Engaging in regular physical activity releases endorphins which give you a natural “high”. Eating a healthy and balanced diet based on the Healthy Diet Pyramid will provide the recommended level of nutrients needed to boost the immune system.

8. Make some time for yourself
Do something that you really enjoy. Take up a hobby like dancing, painting or a sport. Take a short break when you feel tense or tired. Get up and stretch, or take a short walk. When you return to your work, you can concentrate better.

9. Learn some relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage and muscle relaxation techniques help to relieve stress.

Your Work Life
Be clear about your roles. Know your job scope and what is expected of you. If not, clarify with your supervisor. When working in a team, know each other’s roles and responsibilities. Communicate regularly to ensure that the projects are on schedule. Delegate work, where appropriate.

Prioritise your work
Plan a timeline for your projects. Start on projects that require immediate attention. Allow an additional 10% of your time for unforeseen circumstances.

Be realistic in what you can do
Start a job only when you can and have time to finish it. Similarly, do not take on new workload when you are up to your neck in work. Learn to say 'no' when necessary.

Plan your meeting and start on time
Set the objective and agenda for your meeting and request cooperation from team members to be punctual. This helps reduce time wasted discussing irrelevant issues and waiting for everyone to get started. The extra minutes saved can be spent on productive work.

Practice 'power' chat
Keep business telephone conversation brief and concise. Don't get into the habit of chatting too long which could affect your work productivity.

Counter negative thoughts
Watch out for negative thoughts at work. Stop worrying about how you appear to other people. Focus on your good qualities and accomplishments. Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations such as ”I can do it!”. Add helpful reminders to your screen saver, such as, "Take a deep breath," or add a phrase or joke that makes you laugh.

Be fit and healthy
Join your workplace health programmes such as exercise classes, stress management courses or quit smoking programme, to keep healthy and fit.

Your Personal Life
Plan your household chores
Spread out the tasks that need to be done over the week. Avoid doing too many tasks in one day if you can. Prepare a list for grocery shopping so that you don't miss out on buying items that you need. Plan your vacation Plan your travel arrangement early and find out more about the place you are visiting (e.g. weather and road conditions, medical facilities, visitor's attractions, safety matters etc.).

Prepare a list of items you need to bring along:
- important documents
- medication (if applicable)
- contact details in case of emergency

If you have pets, make arrangement for someone to take care of them, especially if you are away for an extended period of time.

Plan for festive periods or gatherings
List the people you would be visiting and plan your time. Write down a gift list and purchase the gifts in advance, if necessary. If you are organising parties or social gatherings, prepare an invitation list and plan the menu. If necessary, make catering arrangement early.

Plan your child care arrangement
Be aware of the facilities, programmes and deadline for infant / child care / schooling arrangements. For working adults with young children, there are infant / child care centres and before and after school care facilities that will help look after your children while you are at work. Find one that suits you.

Recognise the responsibility if you are caring for an elderly
Be aware of the demands when caring for an elderly, especially if they have a medical condition that requires regular medication and frequent visits to the clinics / rehabilitation centres. Modifications to the home environment, e.g. renovations can be made to provide a safer environment for the elderly.

Stress-Busting Tool
The list of questions below are intended to help you realise how stress may affect you. The more ticks you have for “Always” and “Sometimes”, the more likely you are experiencing some form of stress. Please note that this may not be a very comprehensive diagnostic tool. If necessary, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Do you feel that you always have to live up to others’ expectation?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you find that you are not able to concentrateon your tasks?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from sleepless nights or find it hard to sleep through the night, often waking up feeling tired?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from shortness of breath?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from palpitations or tightness in the chest or stomach cramps?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from sweaty palms?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you find it hard to say no when you are asked to accept more tasks to do?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you feel tired all the time?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you constantly feel sad?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you have trouble eating?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from chest pains or tightness?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you find it difficult to pause and enjoy the simplicities of life?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you suffer from frequent digestive problems like diarrhoea, constipation or indigestion?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you grind your teeth or clench and unclench your fists?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Do you find it hard to set aside time to have fun and enjoy yourself?
Always / Sometimes / Never

Deep Breathing
Give yourself 5-10 minutes to do this exercise.
1. Switch on some soft and relaxing music.
2. Dim the lights, if you can.
3. Sit down or lie down in a comfortable position.
4. Close your eyes and place one hand on your stomach right above your waist.
5. Take a deep breath slowly though your nose. Feel your stomach slowly rise up.
6. Slowly breathe out, gently through your mouth.
7. Focus on your breathing and feel the air moving in and out of your body.
8. Repeat step 4 & 5 several times until you feel relaxed.
9. When done, slowly open your eyes.

Visual Imagery
Give yourself 10-15 minutes to do this exercise. If you have more time, start with deep breathing exercise, followed by a visual imagery exercise:
1. Find a quiet comfortable place. Switch on some soft and relaxing music.
2. Dim the lights.
3. Sit on a comfortable chair or lie down.
4. Close your eyes. Put aside all your worries and concerns for the moment.
5. Breathe in slowly, steadily and deeply. Relax all your muscles and let your body go limp.
6. Let your mind imagine a pleasant scene. Imagine that you are walking in a pathway lined with lush greenery, flowers in bloom and birds singing to you.
7. Feel the cool fresh breeze around you. Take a deep breath, in and out.
8. Imagine that at the end of the pathway, there are white, sandy beaches and the shiny pebbles lining the shore. Take a deep breath, in and out.
9. Feel the smooth and cool pebbles. Take a deep breath, in and out.
10. Continue this visualisation until you feel very relaxed.
11. Slowly count to 10 and you will come to a more alert, wakeful and refreshed mind.

Muscle Relaxation
Give yourself about 20-30 minutes for this exercise.
1. Find a quiet comfortable place. Switch on some soft and relaxing music.
2. Sit on a comfortable chair or lie down.
3. Gently close your eyes. Put aside all your worries and concerns to concentrate on relaxing your body.
4. Breathe in slowly, steadily and deeply.
5. Focus your attention to your hands and fingers. Clench your fists as tightly as you can and count to 10.
6. Notice the pull of your hand muscles. Feel the tension. Then release the tension very slowly by letting your hands unfold as you count to 10.
7. Feel the warm tingling sensation on your hands as you relax. Let the tension drain out of your hand.
8. Repeat this exercise with any part of your body - face, head and neck, arms and shoulders, abdomen, buttocks, legs, feet and ankles.



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