Reduce stress, boost resilience and improve energy, mood and performance

Its stress awareness month in the UK and we’ve been speaking to lots of groups and individuals about what causes them stress and might lead to compromised performance or lack of engagement or enjoyment in their work.

In many cases we can create or aggravate stress with the dialogue that runs through our mind each day. Here are 5 common elements of our internal dialogue that can increase stress and reduce feelings of control but which, when challenged and reframed, can instantly boost mood, energy and effectiveness.

Stress thought 1: ‘I’ve got too much to do.’

In truth, many people do have a lot to do and it’s usually because they keep packing their schedule until there’s barely enough time to think. Often this is part of wanting to be successful and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There are only so many hours in the day however so, instead of focusing on what you’re adding to your To‐Do list, think instead about what might drop off the list. Note down tasks and jobs that can be delegated, done differently or removed from your list altogether.

It’s one thing to be busy but an altogether different thing to be effective, so carve out short moments each day to establish what you can do to enhance your effectiveness for the rest of the day and week.

Create a ‘done’ list to help you acknowledge there are plenty of things that you complete but that sometimes go unnoticed. This will boost your sense of achievement and self-confidence and you can also use this list to assess which of the items on the list should remain sitting with you or can be completed by someone else so that you can free up valuable minutes or hours.

You should also have a ‘Not to do list’ where you can keep track of things that currently occupy your day but that should, in time, with careful planning, be removed or delegated.

Resilient thought: ‘I take proactive steps each day to manage my workload.’

Stress thought 2: ‘I don't have time.’

Time is never a question of time but more a question of priorities and planning. But what if you don’t have time to plan?

In actual fact, the vast majority of people we work with are able to cite evidence of examples – personal and professional – when taking time to plan their routine actually saved them minutes, hours and sometimes even days. Minutes, hours or days during which they can either work more efficiently or spend time on other areas of life beyond work.

One thing is certainly true – planning brings with it a sense of control and focus rather than the feeling that may people live with of spending too much time being reactive, feeling overwhelmed and running to keep up with themselves each day.

Allocate just 5 minutes today to establish your top 3 priorities and schedule clear slots to tackle these. Also plan 5 minutes at the same time tomorrow to review your progress. You’ll quickly get into a regular habit of ‘plan, do, review’ and you’ll soon find that you adopt this as a default way of managing your time and priorities throughout the week.

Resilient thought: ‘I plan so I can make the best use of all my time.’

Stress thought 3: ‘I just need a break.’

When you’re busy, busy, busy, it can feel as though things will never ease up. The key here is to do what feels counterintuitive and actually step away from everything.

You might only need to pause for a few minutes or even less than this to take a breath, clear your head and gather your thoughts, but these few minutes, taken strategically through each day, can dramatically alter the path of your working week for the better.

If possible, when you take short breaks, get some fresh air, some daylight, move or stretch your body and, depending on your preference, reach out and connect with someone or allow yourself a few moments of quiet to recharge your batteries.