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It may seem that there’s nothing you can do about stress. It can walk in and out of our lives largely unnoticed and with us having very little understanding of how to manage it correctly. Fortunately, no longer is stress a taboo subject and there are lots of things you can do to minimise and cope with your stress. Here are 5 strategies, supported by Helpguide.org, to help you handle stress:

ONE: Find the source.

First things first, we need to find out where the stress is coming from. At times, when we’re stressed, everything can feel like a big mess. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees as all you can hear in your head is things like “there’s just so much to do”, “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, etc. Sound familiar?

Well this needs to stop! Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day-to-day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?

By getting specific and pinpointing the areas of stress in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organised and taking action.

TWO: Consider what you can control – and work on that.

While you can’t control what your manager does, what your friends say or the state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.

The worst thing for stress is trying to take control of uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.

Stress can be paralysing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.

THREE: Do what you love.

It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find a hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.

FOUR: Explore your perception of pressure and urgency

Remember to keep an eye on the bigger picture and question a lot of assumptions you are making during this busy time.  For example, take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, what’s really that urgent and Can any of it wait half an hour or even half a day?  It’s important to decipher between what’s truly urgent Vs what’s just making a lot of noise and demanding your immediate time & focus. Remember, you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Nor does everything have to happen right now! In order to show up happy and healthy every day and manage stress, we have to get honest about what’s a priority and what’s just making a lot of noise

FIVE: Pick off the negotiables from your plate.

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. Are you putting your hand up for too many projects in and outside work so that you are being stretched thin? Does your whole team really need to meet with you once a day or can this be streamlined?

Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.

SIX: Preserve good boundaries.

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, or like you’ve become a terrible person. But of course that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.

One thing observed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. So ask yourself – are your boundaries clear? Or are they quite flexible? If the latter is true, then it’s time to start setting some clear boundaries for yourself and others, so that they know when and how often you are available

Rebecca sparks