Stress – how to manage your time effectively

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Workplace stress and anxiety is becoming more prevalent and is a common concern in the UK. Statistics show that up to 13.4 million working days are lost in a year due to stress and eighty-five per cent of adults in the UK experience stress on a regular basis.

We all encounter that feeling of stress and overwhelm when we have a lot to do. Our time is spread very thinly between working pressures, family commitments and the rush of fast paced living, which is prevalent in western society. There is an expectation to be busy, productive and to be able to deliver these results consistently.

Often when we become overworked or overwhelmed it begins to impact motivation or lack thereof. If you are living with anxiety or depressive mood this can make simple tasks begin to feel like climbing a mountain. Things that used to feel relatively easy or second nature become overwhelming and near impossible. At times like this, even the most organised person can begin to struggle with making a decision in fear they are going to make the wrong one.

This indecisiveness then becomes a negative cycle of not getting anything done – worrying about the fact that things are not getting done and in the meantime, life doesn’t stop. Things continue to build up adding to your to do pile, which is where the feeling of being overwhelmed kicks in.

This amplifies stress and anxiety, releasing high levels of cortisone in the body (the stress hormone) which interferes with learning, concentration and disturbs sleep patterns. A stressful working environment can be detrimental to wellbeing and it can begin to filter into other aspects of your life outside of the workplace. Experiencing high levels of stress can also knock your self-esteem as you might start to feel incompetent and that you can’t do anything right.

As overwhelming as it feels there are a few things you can do to regain some control and increase your motivation. You can also read my previous blog post on how to recognise and relieve stress induced anxiety here but first, take a look at these suggestions to help manage your time more effectively.

Start small 

If the task at hand feels overwhelming and too big to manage, it will feed into a negative thought cycle that it is too much or it is too difficult. That thought process can make things seem even more challenging than they already are. If you have a big task to do, it’s best to prioritise and divide things into smaller manageable tasks, starting with the smaller things first. Think about a time of day where you feel the most productive, there will be a window of opportunity there and you can use it to your advantage. The more you are able to get the little things done, the more you will begin to feel a sense of achievement and will want to experience those good feelings even more.

Mundane tasks 

It might sound counterproductive but simple house-work chores that you’ve been putting off can put you in a proactive mindset. Sweeping, tidying or organising that random draw that you hide stuff in when there’s no real place for it (yes, most of us have it). If you’re in the workplace, this might mean clearing or organising your desk space. Starting a mundane task which doesn’t take up too much of your energy or brain power gets you moving and accomplishing something, no matter how small. The way that our brains are wired means that once we begin the process of doing something it encourages us to keep that momentum going.

Reward yourself

It can feel like a real thankless task when you are trying to do your best but your hard work and dedication either goes unnoticed or you feel undervalued. There is real value in praise and recognition when we have achieved something or have done something well, it also increases motivation, so why not get into the habit of creating some of that for yourself. Having a reward or treating yourself to something good can help to reduce the negative associations you might have with doing something that you are not particularly keen on. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, just a token that you can associate with feeling good. It may be nice to have work recognition, but for one reason or another this isn’t always available. Starting with rewarding and praising yourself is a really useful way to improve your confidence, self esteem and really become more aware of your own value in the workplace. 

Take a break 

It might feel like the best thing you can do is put all your time and energy into completing a task, but when you are overwhelmed and stressed, it can prevent you from managing your time in a productive way. During heightened stress it becomes more difficult to concentrate, so although you may be spending the hours trying to get things done, what you might find is that you have been trying to complete things without actually making much headway. Forcing yourself to finish something off and putting all the hours in is often counterproductive once you go back to check your work. You might realise that what you’ve done doesn’t make a lot of sense or you have made some clear mistakes. Try taking regular breaks, whether that’s a quick change of scenery or a getting some fresh air. Taking short and regular breaks is a proactive act of self care and means you are able to get back to work refreshed and able to meet challenges. 

Ask for help

Often when we are feeling overworked we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and have the expectation that we should be able to do it all on our own. There is no shame or weakness in admitting when we need help. In fact, asking for help when we need to is a healthy and proactive way to manage your stress effectively. Make a list and identify whether there are some key areas that do not require your direct input. Writing it down helps to see things clearly and observe with an alternative solution focused perspective.

Are there any other tips that help you when you are feeling stressed and unmotivated? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Sometimes there are a number of other underlying factors that increase stress and anxiety that might require some assistance from an experienced counsellor. If you are in the St Albans, Hertfordshire area and you would like to learn more about healthier coping techniques and stress management, you can email me in confidence today to arrange your consultation. 

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