In ancient days, the seventh day of the week was known as the Sabbath. Reserved for some of life’s most important, yet commonly neglected pursuits, including spending time with one’s family and hours in deep reflection and self – renewal, it provided a chance for hard – working people to renew their batteries and spend a day living life more fully. However, as the pace of life quickened and more activities began to compete for people’s attention, this wonderful tradition was lost along with the tremendous personal benefits that flowed from it.
Stress itself is not a bad thing. It can often help us perform at our best, expand beyond our limits and achieve things that would otherwise astonish us. Just ask any elite athlete. The real problem lies in the fact that in this age of global anxiety we do not get enough relief from stress. So to revitalize yourself and nourish the deepest part of you, plan for a weekly period of peace – a weekly sabbatical – to get back to the simpler pleasures of life, pleasures that you may have given up as your days grew busier and your life more complex. Bringing this simple ritual into your weeks will help you reduce stress, connect with your more creative side and feel far happier in every role of your life. Your weekly sabbatical does not have to last a full day. All you need are a few hours alone, perhaps on a quiet Sunday morning, when you can spend some time doing the things you love to do the most. Ideas include spending time in your favorite bookstore, watching the sun rise, taking a solitary walk along a beach and writing in your journal. Organizing your life so that you get to do more of the things you love to do is one of the first steps to life improvement. Who cares if others don’t understand what you are trying to accomplish by making the weekly sabbatical an essential part of your life. Do it for yourself, you are worth it.
After you know what is causing your stress, try making some changes in your life that will help you avoid stressful situations.
Here are a few ideas and techniques on stress management:
Manage your time
Time management is a way to find the time for more of the things you want and need to do. It helps you decide which things are urgent and which can wait. Managing your time can make your life easier, less stressful, and more meaningful.
Look at your lifestyle
The choices you make about the way you live affect your stress level. Your lifestyle may not cause stress on its own, but it can prevent your body from recovering from it.
If you have a stress-related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. “To deal with stress effectively, you need to feel robust and you need to feel strong mentally. Exercise does that,” says Cooper.
Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.
There’s a solution to any problem. “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse,” says Professor Cooper. “That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of well being.” The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else. Read tips about how to manage your time.
Connect with people
A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
“If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
“Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems,” says Professor Cooper.
Have some ‘me time’
The UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe. The extra hours in the workplace mean that people aren’t spending enough time doing things that they really enjoy. “We all need to take some time for socializing, relaxation or exercise,” says Professor Cooper.
He recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality "me time" away from work. "By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime on those days," he says.
Setting your goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress.
“By constantly challenging yourself you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life,” says Professor Cooper. “By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person. It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.”
Avoid unhealthy habits
Don't rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. "Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behavior," says Professor Cooper. "Women are better at seeking support from their social circle."
Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. "It’s like putting your head in the sand," says Professor Cooper. "It might provide temporary relief but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress."
Eat a healthy diet, limit how much alcohol you drink, and don't smoke. Staying healthy is your best defense against stress.
Do volunteer work
Cooper says evidence shows that people, who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. “Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cooper. “The more you give the more resilient and happy you feel.”
On a more basic level, do someone a favor every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues. Favors’ cost nothing to do and you’ll feel better.
Work smarter, not harder
Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long-hours culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. “You have to get a work-life balance that suits you,” says Professor Cooper.
Working smarter means prioritizing your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. “Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Cooper. “Accept that you’re in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”
Look for the positives in life, and things for which you're grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well or for which you're grateful.
“People don’t always appreciate what they have,” says Professor Cooper. “Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty,” he says.
This requires a shift in perspective for those who are more naturally pessimistic.
“It can be done,” he says. “By making a conscious effort you can train yourself to be more positive about life. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective, you may see your situation from a more positive point of view.”
Accept the things you can't change
Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognize and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over.
“If your company is going under and is making redundancies, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Professor Cooper. “There’s no point fighting it. In such a situation, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.”
Exercise: Even moderate exercise, such as taking a daily walk, can reduce stress.
Try to: Find a balance between personal, work, and family needs. This isn't easy. Start by looking at how you spend your time. Maybe there are things that you don't need to do at all. Finding a balance can be especially hard during the holidays.
Have a sense of purpose in life: Many people find meaning through connections with family, friends, jobs, or volunteer work.
Get enough sleep: Your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping.
Support in your life from family, friends, and your community has a big impact on how you experience stress. Having support in your life can help you stay healthy.
Support means having the love, trust, and advice of others. But support can also be something more concrete, like time or money. It can be hard to ask for help. But doing so doesn't mean you're weak.
If you're feeling stressed, you can look for support from:
- Family and friends.
- Coworkers or people you know through hobbies or other interests.
- A professional counselor
- People you know from church, or a member of the clergy.
- Employee assistance programs at work, or stress management classes.
- Support groups. These can be very helpful if your stress is caused by a special situation. Maybe you are a caregiver for someone who is elderly or has a chronic illness.