Today is International Stress Awareness Day. Stress is something most of us deal with; it's frustrating and often hard to control. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like sometimes stress completely takes over. The thing with stress is that more often than not the things we're stressing about are out of our control. I'm a frantic stresser. I tend to get so worked up about situations that I don't feel I have a handle on.
I also stress about what other people are doing and if they're happy or enjoying themselves—which, after 27 years, let me tell you, is tiring. The one thing I have learned about stress is that more often than not, everything is absolutely fine, and you will get whatever you're frantically worrying about, done. But how can we turn those worries into a positive thing?
I tend to look at the problem head-on and write a list of how I'm going to get it finished. By giving myself time schedules or a list to revert back to, I often realise the problem is much smaller than I initially thought and that I can work my way through it. I also have to make time to exercise if I'm feeling stressed. Having that hour first thing in the morning for "me" helps to set me up for the day, no matter how worried I'm feeling.
In using that built-up energy to run or do a class, I'm already turning my stress into something good, and it helps to set me up for whatever comes my way that day. But how do other people turn stress into a positive thing? I decided to call upon people I know work in busy environments to see how they cope.
Sarah Henriques, UK PR Manager at The Body Shop
"Before, if I was stressed and I had a lot on at work or felt overwhelmed, I'd sacrifice things like cooking, exercise and my regular routine because I felt like I was freeing up time to focus on what I felt were the priorities. I essentially let the stress win! Now, if I can see my week is looking quite stressful, I'll structure my time more carefully and make sure I eat properly, exercise (without killing myself or beating myself up about it, but using it more as a time to reflect) and try as much as possible to stick to a routine. Doing this really helps keep things in perspective, too. There's a lot to be said for being aware of how you're feeling in a borderline objective way, if you can."
Hannah McGhee, UK Senior Director at Clique Brands
"Of course there are situations when you're genuinely in a life-threatening or extreme scenario, and your body and mind respond with stress. But day to day, I'm a believer that stress shouldn't be a consistent factor in your life. Instead, think of stress like the warning light on your car. It's telling you that something bigger-picture is wrong that you need to address.
"By using stress as an indicator (and not the rationale to behave in a certain way), I get the chance to take a step back and ask myself what's really going on here. Am I responding in a way that warrants the situation? Is there something else at play that I need to tackle? How can I respond in a way that assists me to keep focused? It's this process that I've found keeps me grounded, calm and able to prioritize in the right area—not just caught up in that moment or spiral."
Shannon Peter, Deputy Editor at Byrdie UK
"My stress is often deadline related, given the nature of my job. It's taken me a while to reach this stage, but nowadays I'm pretty good at flipping the idea of a deadline on its head. Yes, I may only have two hours to complete this task, but that also means that in two hours' time, the task will be finished, and I'll be able to strike it from my to-do list. Of course, it isn't a foolproof solution, but I do think it helps me get a better perspective on the matter in hand."
Chloe Brotheridge, Hypnotherapist and Anxiety Expert
"All feelings, stress included, can be positive because feelings show us what our needs are. Get curious about what the feeling of stress is trying to tell you. Perhaps it's about needing to be more organised or needing to slow down or saying no more."
Dr Jane Leonard, GP and Health Expert
"Stress is a normal part of life. How it affects us on a physical, psychological and emotional level and how we deal with it varies from person to person. Some people thrive on stress and perform at their best, whereas other people can be overwhelmed and function at a less optimal level.
"I think the first step in effectively managing stress is accepting that stress happens to us all and is a normal part of our lives as a human! The next step is taking the time to take a step back and reflect on how you have dealt with stressful situations in the past. Have you thrived or fallen? What was the end result? Positive or negative? How do you feel looking back?
"I personally believe you can have a positive or negative outlook on anything in life. Whichever way you choose, the outcome tends to follow. If you embrace the mantra that sometimes stress isn't optional but how you deal with it is, you will start to feel more in control of the situation and your life in general."
If you're really struggling to manage stress and your mind can't seem to get a hold on the matte, Leonard recommends developing a strategy to manage it. She credits cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise, relaxation techniques and meditation as helpful options, and as always, it's a great idea to consult your GP.