Stress is something we all will have to deal with at some point in our lives: it is inevitable. I’d love to say how we can avoid stress in our lives, but that wouldn’t be true. What I can say though, are tips and tricks that have helped me to deal with stress when it has shown up in my life, very much unannounced and uninvited!
Recently, stress has been a huge factor in my life – and telling it to go away (AKA, avoiding the events that have caused my stress) hasn’t worked. I knew it wouldn’t, but sometimes it is easier to avoid than it is to face something. This doesn’t work though. Between starting a new job and working 28 hours a week, continuing my old job, and doing a PhD, there has been very little time for me to just relax and do things I want to do, rather than have to. The demands of my PhD and jobs have influenced what my day looks like, and it is harder to factor in time to practice self-care and reduce my stress levels. So, what have I done about it?
Firstly, I made sure to communicate. I spoke to my manager about my hours and what I can actually offer. I spoke with my parents about how I was feeling and whether this was a realistic option for me right now. I spoke with my PhD supervisor so he knew how I was feeling and could, if need be, add the right support. Communication was a vital first step in making sure I could manage my stress. My stress was coming from these areas, so I needed to talk with the people who could help make a difference.
Secondly, I re-evaluated what my day looked like, and what it could look like. My sleeping pattern was awful, for example. I went to bed late and woke up late. Not only did this mean I missed most of the morning, but because it is getting closer to winter in the UK, it was getting dark much earlier too. I wasn’t getting enough sunlight and I felt groggy and tired every day, even with eight hours of sleep. I needed to fix this, both for my mood and because my responsibilities meant I had to be awake much earlier. To account for the fact I need eight hours of sleep, I worked at making sure I didn’t nap during the day, and woke up earlier because I set an alarm. I was tired the first few days, but after about a month, I found I was waking up naturally at seven. My body had adjusted, and I feel better knowing I can wake up at a good time, do some university work, and then go to my job. It took a while to reset my sleeping pattern whilst maintaining the eight hours of sleep, but I now feel so much better. I can get a lot more done in my day now!
Finally, I ensured that I could factor in self-care with my extra few hours in a day. This is extremely important because, to reduce stress, you have to do things that make you happy! Sometimes having something good at the end of your day (or at the start!) can get us through the tough, stressful moments. I like knowing that, because I bulk cook and freeze meals, all I have to do when I get home is warm up my dinner and put Netflix on. I haven’t got to actually cook anything. I also like knowing that I have a jigsaw I haven’t finished yet, so I can add a few pieces to that, or I can read some more of my book before bed if I felt too tired to work on the puzzle. In the morning, I know that even though it’s dark and cold, I can have a warm shower which will set me up for the day, and I feel fresher. Even though these seem like small self-care activities, it actually helps to reduce my stress because they help me to relax and not be ‘on the go’ after work.
If you struggle to factor in self-care, make sure to add it to your to-do list the same way you would a household chore. It is just as important and is a massive stress reducer. It won’t fix everything but it will help to provide relief within the tougher moments of the day, which helps you to balance stress.
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