“I am stressed” – this statement is clearly one of the most overused sentences in the English language. Even if it is often misused as an excuse, there is usually a reason behind it. Stress is a real problem these days, but a solvable one, and you don’t need to settle down on a farm in Peru to find peace.
Stress: What are we actually talking about?
If we trace the word “stress” back to its origins, then it means “strain, pressure”, but also “effort”. If a material, such as a metal, is exposed to high strain, we speak of material stress. In humans, there is clearly the aspect of stress, in addition to the physical response: effort.
Ok, so we humans aren’t dead metal blocks, but when we get into stressful situations, something happens within our psychological system, and subsequently also within our body (more about that later).
Let’s define what is meant by “stressful situations”. Keeping this meaning very broad, because it differs from person to person – “a stressful situation” is everything that causes the typical psychological and physical stress symptoms in a person. These can be physical situations, such as sudden and severe changes of light or sound, or purely psychological stress such as losing a job, bullying or the death of a relative. These negative stressors lead to so-called “distress”, i.e. toxic stress.
On the other hand, there is also the “eustress”, that is “good” stress, which, e.g. athletes experience before a competition and which drives them to peak performance, whereby the eustress is experienced psychologically quite differently than the distress.
Biologically, stress is designed for “fight or flight” situations. It causes an increase in pulse rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels (also due to the release of adrenalin and noradrenaline). Cortisol inhibits inflammation; digestive activity is reduced by the activation of the sympathicus (part of our nervous system), while the cerebrum with its slow, consciously cognitive processing of information is reduced and the brain stem “takes over”, which enables “instinct-controlled” reactions.
However, we are not physically attacked every day by a wild animal or by a malicious human being. The typical symptoms of stress (psychological and physical) are still present in many people. Obviously (except in the case of eustress) life situations are perceived as threats. This insight immediately plays an important role.
Stress in everyday life
As a time management company, when we talk about stress, we don’t mean “fight or flight” situations or severe psychological stress such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. In traumatic life events, please seek out professional help!
The typical everyday stress, however, comes about differently. Our thesis is: The three most important factors for everyday stress are,
- Overly difficult tasks
- Work tasks that come at a too fast-paced sequence
- Unexpected tasks (ad hoc problem)
Tasks that are too difficult psychologically create a feeling of being overtaxed, which comes very close to a threat. “Too difficult” also means that you do not have or know any means to cope with the task. But even tasks that are feasible in themselves can degenerate into stress if they come in too rapid a sequence. Then, subjectively, the feeling of being overwhelmed also arises.
You feel as if there is no time to take a deep breath
Breathing is an essential element in the development of stress, but also in any strategy of stress relief.
Then there are the unexpected tasks. They can be quite mundane, but if you are confronted with them without the possibility of (organising them mentally) preparation, planning, stress will emerge.
Tips on how to relieve the stress of everyday life
The first tip is directed towards the third stress factor. A proper advance planning of the tasks creates overview and inner preparation. One sees the tasks coming. No need for ad hoc!
The ideal solution would be to use the weekly overviews in the weekview timers. They make it possible to keep track of all tasks for that week as well as the weeks ahead.
Let’s concentrate on planning.
Of course, you could plan your week so that it overflows with tasks creating stress.
Our suggestion would be:
Don’t take on too much. Recognise which tasks absolutely have to be completed this week (Prio A). Take care of them first, so you have time for other important tasks. If there is still time, you can start completing tasks from the “reservoir” (Prio B/C). Can you imagine what a stress-relieving feeling it is to have a 120% completed weekly workload?
In order to counteract stress, you should also consciously plan the following: rest periods; sleep; reflection; exercise; pleasant experiences. Tragically, most people associate planning with work and effort, and don’t want to have anything to do with it in their free time – only to end up stressed in their free time. The above elements become incredibly vulnerable to all kinds of “emergencies”, be it Facebook or WhatsApp news.
We need rest (during the day, e.g. power naps), enough sleep (approx. 8 h), reflection for our mental wellbeing and exercise for our bodies. If one of these elements is missing, you can even feel stressed without any identifiable stressful events!
Tip two is: Create rituals because the familiar has a calming effect on the psyche.
Here a few ideas:
- It is best to do your grocery shopping in the same store on the same day of the week but first create a shopping list. Shopping can also be stressful if you have to make ad hoc decisions or search for products for way too long.
- Set the weekly trip to the recycling centre on a specific day, e.g. Saturday morning.
- On a specific day of the week (usually Friday or Saturday), consciously take time to cook. You may also be able to make the same dish over and over again, at least for a while.
- Why not have a movie night on a particular evening of the week, alone or with the family?
Perhaps you will notice that all these tips can only be truly carried out within the framework of the week as a primary planning unit!
Our last tip is: Music!
Find out what music is good for your soul. Find a time when you can listen to it – be it on your way home from work, while vacuuming or maybe even while working.
Over to you
If you have any other suggestions for keeping stress out of your life, we would love to read them in the comments below.