Managing Stress 101

As young professionals, stress is an all too familiar feeling, conversation topic and excuse. We can bet that, at least a few times per week (and probably per day), young professionals from across the country exclaim that they are just “so stressed out!” or at least feel feelings of stress and accompanying anxiety, whether the result of work or personal issues. Here are some every day things to keep in mind to make our YP lives a little easier:

Know what you don’t like:
Define how stress manifests in your life and then identify the sources of your stress. You will learn how to manage it and how to avoid similar situations, whether it is a specific job, career or relationship. These are not always as obvious as you would think. For example, a YP in a deadline-heavy job may constantly cite demanding deadlines for their stress, when it could be procrastination or poor time management that leads to the stress, not job expectations. Or you may think that spotty public transportation service is the source of your stress, when it is your inability to wake up early enough to avoid being in a rush in the first place. 

Take control of environmental factors affecting stress 
If traffic has you tense and angry, take the longer but less-traveled route to the office and download new favourite tunes to listen to in the car. If you are always rushing in the morning, plan ahead the night before with things like outfits, breakfast and, for the females, washing and blow drying hair. If your schedule leaves little room for grocery shopping, order your groceries online and have them delivered. 

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable
Many things in life are beyond our control and us stubborn young professionals do not like this concept. The behavior of other people, the world market and traffic are examples. We get stressed when we can’t control things when we want to. In moments of stress or inconvenience it is important to recognize and accept things you can’t control. You can’t control the unfortunate circumstance, but you can control the way you handle them. 

Create a balanced schedule
Assess your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks and prioritize and organize them. Keep in mind everything that is important to you in achieving a balanced life. We all know that all work and no play can burn even the most energetic and driven YP out. Prioritize your professional, social, charitable and lifestyle tasks and commitments. Instead of trying to get to the gym “3 or 4 times per week,” make weekly schedule and try to stick to it.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Always stressful is a never-ending “to-do” list and feeling overcommitted to too many projects, causes or even friends. As difficult as it may be for us driven YPs, try not to over-commit yourself. A common problem among young professionals is that we under-estimate how long things will take and (with good faith and intentions) over-promise. Try to over-estimate how long things will take and refrain from scheduling back-to-back meetings or packing too much into a day. Distinguish what must be done from what should be done and learn how and when to say “no.” 

Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can leave you irritable, more prone to mistakes and vulnerable to more stress. A well rested young professional will find it easier to keep balanced emotionally, which is a key factor in coping with stress because, remember, it is not about the problem rather the reaction. Not to mention, you’ll look better.

Take care of yourself 
The better you feel, the less daunting stressful situations will become. When you feel out of shape, in need of personal maintenance, or are in need of a wardrobe revamp, it inevitably spills into other areas of your life. Make time for little things to make you good, like a hot shave for the men, and a hair or nail appointment for the ladies. Make fitness a part of your weekly routine. No matter how heartbroken, stressed out or frazzled we are, we are always amazed by the power of a good workout to instantly lift our spirits and energy levels. 

Watch what you eat
Make food choices that keep you fueled and keep your blood sugar up. Low blood sugar adds to stress by stimulating feelings of anxiety and irritability. Eating too much can make you feel lethargic, guilty and uncomfortable. 

Don’t drink your stress away
How many times have you heard young professionals exclaim that they “need a drink” after a stressful work day or that they want to go out and “party” after a breakup. Although a quick fix, alcohol not only masks the stress and anxiety but as it wears off, or the next morning, it creates even more anxiety and irrational thought. It’s one thing to unwind with a glass of wine when you get home, but another to attempt to drink your problems away. 

Avoid people who stress you out
Stress and anxiety rubs off on people around you. If you are already feeling stressed, another stressed out person is not going to help. At the same time, recognize people who cause stress in your life for other reasons, and if there is no altering of the relationship, try to limit your contact with that person. 

Think positive and look for humour in situations
Thinking negatively is not only draining on your spirits and motivation, but it perpetuates stress with its focus on the problems (the negative) rather than the solutions (positive). Try, even at the most challenging times, to think positively about the good in your life and focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. Another way to reduce stress, especially for the more trivial, inconvenient or every day stress, is to search for humour in the situation.