Four Ways to Effectively Manage Stress

The pandemic has added significant stress to many of our lives. Trying to balance working from home, online learning for your kids, and making time for your significant other can sometimes feel impossible. 

The old methods of dealing with stress just aren’t cutting it anymore. And when we don’t have an effective coping mechanism for stress, it can quickly become detrimental to your professional and personal relationships, not to mention your mental and physical wellbeing. 

It helps to alter the way you view stress. As opposed to seeing all stress as a negative, consider the fact that stress serves a natural, physiological purpose that can help us solve important problems and learn and grow from our experiences. Take a different approach by taking the time to understand your stress instead of trying to eliminate it completely. 

Stress can be used as an engine of personal growth and peak performance. And that’s exactly why Jan Ascher and Fleur Tonies of McKinsey & Company outline four ways to better understand and reframe how you manage stress in their article. 

Define Your Stress

Everyone experiences stress, but the stress you face is uniquely yours. Each person has their own stress triggers and it’s important to first identify what those are and then how that stress appears in your routine when it hits you. 

To become more aware of your own stress, here are a couple of examples of questions you can ask yourself:

  • In a typical week, how often do you feel well rested? How often during the workday do you seek moments of recovery versus “powering through”?
  • Think of a recent time when you were surprised by something stressful at work. How did you react? In what ways did you focus on resources to help manage the stress? In what ways did you struggle? What would you do differently next time?

The better you become at locating and describing your stress, the more you will improve at harnessing the most effective stress response for you.

Make Time to Focus

Most of us are overworked and overtired, which makes it difficult to maintain focus. Working remotely has also made it more challenging to remain productive throughout the workday. To help combat this and reduce stress, block out a certain time frame of your day to be spent on deep work: no distractions, no cell phones on loud – just time to focus on the tasks at hand.

Another tip is to take a break from video meetings. Even though Zoom has likely become a normal part of your everyday work life since the pandemic, too many video conferences in a day can be extremely draining. If you have to spend most of your workday in virtual meetings, try turning off your camera for some of them so you can just focus on the spoken words.

Rest and Recover

If you never effectively recover from the stress of your day, you will carry it into the next one. Working from home poses difficulties when it comes to getting relief throughout the day because most people feel like they’re constantly “on the clock”. Organize micro-breaks while you’re working to give yourself a precious reset. Even a simple 5 minutes away from your screen a few times a day can make a huge difference in productivity and stress levels.

We all know the importance of quality sleep and daily exercise, so be sure to plan ahead and ensure you are giving your body the care it needs so you can function at your maximum capacity.

Alternate Between Focus and Recovery

Make the effort to learn how to effectively alternate between focus time and recovery time. Creating distinct transitions will help keep them separate in your brain, which will make it easier for you to access them when you need to. Your goal is to learn how to make focus and recovery something you can call on when you need it—a tangible, built-in part of your day.

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You can read more about How to Turn Everyday Stress into “Optimal Stress” at McKinsey & Company.