Stay cool in times of stress

Last week, a member of the project team had a crisis. Everything was becoming too much for and she had to step out to regain her cool. It’s an all too common situation for a lot of teams and individuals these days. Deadlines are shorter, workloads are increasing and with smart phones, we’re constantly connected. Recharging our batteries becomes more challenging.

Here are 15 top tips to stay cool when you’re experiencing stress:

  1. Review your calendar the night before. If it’s a day with meetings back-to-back, do you need to attend all of them or can some be delegated or postponed? Block time to work on projects and actually put this time slot into your calendar. If it’s not in your calendar, it won’t get done and you’re open to more interruptions.
  2. Structure your day by setting priorities. What’s urgent and important? Do these activities when you’re most focused and alert. Postpone trivial activities like filing when you’re experiencing your natural low of the day or postpone it to another day like the last day of your working week.
  3. Emails can become very stressful. If you’re receiving a large amount of emails, often where you’re just copied it, find a system of handling them. You can move all newsletter emails into a special folder by setting a rule and then check that folder when you have time. Also, checking your emails less often actually increases your productivity and reduces your stress levels. If it’s important, people will call you directly.
  4. If you are unsure about anything, ask before working on it your assumption. Assumptions can be dangerous as your business partner or colleague may expect and/or understand something very different. By clarifying, all sides will be one the same page. You’re not wasting your time with an unnecessary activity and, even better, you won’t get upset about these wasted efforts when you find out something else was due.
  5. Realise when you become stressed. What is happening and how did it come to this? Keep a journal to identify your own trigger points and stress levels. After recording the events for a week or a month, what common trends do you see? This will help you avoid reaching these in the future.
  6. Keep it in perspective and don’t make a mountain out of molehills. Will this issue matter in a month’s time? Or a year or 5 years? If the answer is no, let it go.
  7. Remove yourself from the situation. A former boss re-phrased it to “Remove all emotions”, the objective of it is the same. It makes it easier to think rationally about the present case and what to do next.
  8. Stop multitasking. We can quickly move from one activity to another but there’s no effective and successful multitasking. Reading your email while speaking to a customer, you’re effectively not doing either and are missing potentially vital information. David Allen said at the 2016 Emirates Literature Festival that we focus on one thing only in a crisis. Do that more often.
  9. Our brain is not meant to store information. Write down what’s on your mind and make it specific rather than simply “Jeff”. Will you still remember what “Jeff” means later that day or the next day? Instead, note “Jeff to confirm the software requirements for project ABC”.
  10. Take a break. While working under pressure can temporarily push us to deliver more results faster, we can also crash faster. Move away from the screen (including your phone!) and get moving. A 15-minute-walk outside is great and if you only have 5 minutes, climb the stairs to the next floor or walk up and down the corridor.
  11. Eat healthy snack. Pizza, chips and coke are delicious, fast to order and easy to eat. Yet, the energy they’re providing is only for a short period of time. Opt for a salad with protein for lunch and eat fruits like a banana or nuts like almonds and walnuts as a snack. Reduce your caffeine intake and switch to teas and water.
  12. Set boundaries. When you are heading out of the office or the client meeting, define how you will be available at home. If it’s project close or there’s a crisis, you may want to check your emails once or twice. However, honour yourself and give yourself time to recuperate.
  13. On that notion, also disconnect from your phone and emails. If you can’t resist, make the last checking of your emails at least an hour before you’re going to bed. Experts are recommending shutting down electronic devices an hour before going to sleep.
  14. While you may just want to crash in front of the TV after a stressful day at work, make time for a physical work out. Whether it’s swimming, cycling, running or yoga, keeping your body moving relaxes your mind and reduces stress hormones.
  15. To re-energise and to prepare your body for the challenges of the next day, get enough sleep.

What are your favourite tips for staying cool in times of stress? What’s working for you? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,

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