Karen Gately
Karen Gately Kon Iatrou

Six essential steps to letting go of stress

REFLECT for a moment on the level of stress in your life and how well you deal with it. We all go through stressful times, whether dealing with a manic workload, conflict in our relationships, financial pressures or illness.

Most of us experience times when the demands of life feel greater than our resources to cope. How well we get through these times depends on how we choose to respond. Choosing to manage stress is the first step toward taking back control.

Six essential steps you can take to unwind and let go of stress each day include:

Recognise stress

Letting go of stress requires that you observe when you are carrying it. Pay attention to how you are thinking, feeling and behaving. Learn to read the signals that you are allowing things to get on top of you. Learn to recognise when your body is telling you to take a break and recharge your battery. Look for the signs of stress reflected in your mood and behaviour.

Choose your thoughts

The way we think influences the way we feel and in turn the stress we carry. Be mindful of what you are thinking and the level of stress you are choosing to take on in each moment. Choose to see your circumstances in a positive light and avoid the draining impacts pessimistic thinking can have. Leave work behind when you go home for the day. Choose to stop the thoughts about issues that will be waiting for you tomorrow. While its natural for your mind to wonder, catch yourself getting caught up and choose a different thought.

Focus on what you can control

For many of us stress is exacerbated by feeling out of control or helpless. The reality is however many things in life are outside of our control. This is especially true of how other people choose to feel or behave toward us. The only real control we have is to choose our own thoughts, feelings and actions. Make the choices necessary to your ability to manage stress.

Take time out

When you feel stress levels building take a break and move away from the situation. Go for a walk if possible, spend a few minutes clearing your mind in a breakout room or have a brief chat to a colleague. Physical movement, fresh air, sunshine and laughter are just some of the ways you can quickly reduce stressful thoughts and feelings before they take hold.

Use routine to unwind

Before you get home take steps to unwind from your day at work. Listening to music or talk back radio on route for some people is a great way to disconnect from the events of their day. Write a list of things you need to do tomorrow before you leave work. Writing things down can be a useful way of putting them out of your mind while you take a break and focusing on enjoying your time off.

Keep moving

Exercise is a great stress reliever. Even light exercise such as taking a stroll around the block at the end of your day will help relieve stress. Whether on a treadmill at the gym, doing sit-ups in your lounge room, or doing some gardening, any movement will make a positive difference to your mental health. Look for ways you enjoy being active. Spend time expending energy in ways you will find most rewarding.

Life is likely to continue to throw challenges at all of us. How we choose to perceive and respond to those challenges will determine the quality of life we live. Choose to believe in your ability to overcome any obstacle, confront any threat and endure any heartache. While life can be tough we each have within us the ability to choose to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to thrive. Stress is an inevitable part of being human but we have the power to choose the extent to which it builds and impacts our health and happiness.

Karen Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager's Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.karengately.com.au or contact info@ryangately.com.au



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