7 ways to manage your stress levels
By Hannah Swierstra
April is stress awareness month and with 74% of UK adults reporting to have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope1 – I thought I’d share these 7 tips for managing stress levels. 🧘♀️
1. Connect with people.
It may have been near impossible to see people face to face this last year, there are still lots of ways you can connect. I started my business in July 2020 – so right IN the pandemic and have made so many great connections thanks to social media and online networking.
There are a raft of networking groups out there but if it isn’t your thing or if it adds stress (new networking still makes me sweat!), why not book in a virtual coffee break with a colleague, peer, or friend, or just give them a call?
Taking time out can feel like a stress in itself, but it won’t if you have the right kind of break and have a meaningful moment with someone. You’ll find you’re more able to tackle that to-do list and eat that frog. Plus you may find they can help with something that is causing stress.
2. Get your work environment right.
My work environment, my office space, can have a huge effect on my stress levels. If I’m uncomfortable, too hot, too cold, my desk is a mess, invariably I become more stressed and even the little things get to me.
My 5 tips for creating a comfortable, productive and stress-free workspace are on the blog, but here are the headlines:
- Find the right place.
- Get the right equipment.
- Get the right furniture.
- Decorate it.
- Keep it tidy.
3. Start single tasking.
I mean it – stop it right now.
I have always been an offender and I still have my moments, but it’s just not effective. You may feel for a moment like you bossed it, but it won’t last long, because you’re onto the next thing. You’re engaging on social when there’s a lull in networking, you’re writing a report/blog post/proposal when you’re on the phone, watching TV or stirring the dinner.
It’s actually not multi-tasking because you can’t do two things at once, it’s serial tasking and what it means is flitting between jobs, projects and tasks instead of focussing on one thing at a time! And you know what? As harsh as it sounds, it means you’re probably doing a substandard job AND it will undoubtedly be adding to your stress as your head will be all over the place.
Ditch serial tasking, embrace single tasking
4. Use the Eisenhower Matrix.
How do you prioritise your tasks? Are you a bit haphazard doing whatever’s on top of the pile or maybe you stick to the easy ones first and ignore that one lurking in the background?
The Eisenhower method is a great way of prioritising your tasks by categorising them by importance and urgency which helps give you clarity on what it is you should be focussing on.
For more information check out my blog post from last month: Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix
5. Get time blocking.
So you’ve applied the Eisenhower method, you have your priority list. What next?
Time blocking is a way of managing projects, client work or yourself, particularly helpful if you’re a serial tasker and/or reactive worker (someone who jumps as soon as the phone rings or email pings).
Put like for like tasks together, e.g. cashflow & invoicing; social media posts & photo editing; client work; business & marketing strategy. They don’t all have to be like for like tasks you can time block for one project or task only e.g. client orders: emails.
Once you have these groupings or tasks, schedule them into your diary and when you come to that block, set a timer, and only work on the tasks assigned to that block until the time is up.
I find this really helps with my focus and productivity which naturally reduces my stress levels AND I get more done #winning.
6. Know your triggers.
Knowing your stress triggers can be really helpful in managing your stress levels.
One of my biggest triggers is my inbox. If I have more than say 30 emails sitting in there with a bunch of unread emails, I feel REALLY uncomfortable.
I’m not into inbox zero, but to see that many emails to me translates as that number of things to add to my already long to-do list. So I keep on top of it, I file, I flag, I create tasks on Asana so that my inbox stays ‘relatively’ neat. A messy inbox can really derail my day and set me off on the wrong foot, so it’s important for me to manage it.
If you’re not sure what your triggers are, I recommend 5 minutes of reflection. It’s probably not possible in the moment, but at the end of the day, reflect on when you were at your most stressed/anxious and think about what it was that triggered it. Is there a pattern?
It’s a good idea to do this over a few days to really nail down what it is that is making you feel like that. I’ve found it’s not usually the thing that sends me over the edge that is the problem, but something else. In my case, it’s not the urgent 5-minute job email that just landed, but what came before it, the 30 odd emails that I haven’t dealt with yet.
7. Hire a VA!
One of the best ways to relieve that stress – HIRE A VA!
If you’re a busy business owner (trips off the tongue!), taking on too much, feeling overwhelmed, and wondering how you are going to do it all, then outsourcing IS the answer!
Trust me delegating tasks and knowing they will be dealt with efficiently and professionally will give you peace of mind. And there are so many skilled service providers and freelancers out there ready to support your business, not just VA’s! In fact I’m so passionate about outsourcing I wrote about it here.
So what are the benefits of outsourcing?
- It increases your productivity.
- You get a skilled worker.
- You only pay for the work they do (not the fag breaks).
- There’s no staff management.
- It will reduce your mental load.