Ah yes, it’s Stress Awareness Month again… yes, a whole 365 days since the last one!

Here’s my question: how low are your stress levels now? Have you managed over the last 365 days to adopt behaviours and habits to reduce the impact of stress on your life? If you’re cringing as you read these first few sentences…. then read on. So, we know that it’s not possible to live a totally stress free life ….we know that the reality of a life that includes family, friends and some sort of work (and maybe a side hustle as well) means that stress will be present in varying degrees….we are all constantly lamenting that “there just aren’t enough hours in a day” or even a week, fatigue is a permanent state for many and then there are those of us with anxiety issues and some with depression… none of these states is to be taken lightly.

Ok so… how do we make more progress with going from awareness to action and consequently a better, more sustainable level of overall wellbeing? Well I can testify that the struggle is real …there are times when things seem to be flowing and I’m able to make the time that’s needed to turn my awareness into positive actions: but then there are the periods when my Awareness doesn’t lead to action and I find myself vaguely acknowledging my stress but not consciously connecting with the need to address it. Sound familiar? If so, read on.

Now, in the spirit of keeping it real, I’m not saying that we can achieve the perfect lifestyle where we manage our stress all the time… let’s face it: there are times when shit happens, situations crop up, deadlines loom and no matter how well our boundaries are defined, we get overwhelmed. It’s not that these are necessarily bad events,…sometimes they’re periods of growth and expansion that we just have to embrace and flow with. So it’s more about remembering the things that we can do fairly consistently to ensure that stress doesn’t get the better of us.

People often talk about time off but for those who are business owners, it’s not always realistic unless you have a team that you can rely on. So sometimes time out is the answer and can be very beneficial… your business will not fall apart if you put boundaries in place…seriously! You don’t have to follow what other people do and be contactable at all hours.

To start with I’d suggest making a list of the thing that you know are your guaranteed stress relievers…the actions that you know from experience always calm you down and help you to breathe again. Look at the list and categorise these into quick fixes that don’t require you to travel or to spend money and those that do.

So if you like reading, purchase a book or two, carry them with you and when things threaten to overload you, take a reading break (you can do this anywhere) Equally if you like podcasts or audio books take a 10 minute listen break.

If you’re into meditation…. meditate: if you find it difficult… well, there’s an app for that why not try an app like Buddhify, Headspace or Subliminal.

Set some boundaries and learn when to say ‘No’– so take a minute to think about the amount of times you should have said no in the last month or so, times that you’ve found yourself committed to actions that in hindsight have stretched you too far into the realms of overload: some are work related, some are social and some personal. Learning to say ‘No’ is a form of self-care which ultimately improves our overall wellbeing. That way instead of engaging in things half-heartedly and not being your best self, inwardly chastising yourself for being tired or for not being fully present, you’ll practice self-care and save yourself and others the potential fall out. Equally, who doesn’t respect someone who knows when to say no?

Switch up your work routine – if you can, try working from home or at a co-working space if possible, it’s amazing how a change of work routine can improve your output and reduce that stressed out feeling.

Take a break from tech – I know that this is easier said than done believe me, but it’s surprisingly relaxing not to connect with your phone, iPad, laptop etc… and just enjoy being present.

Write it out – journaling can take many forms from daily gratitude journals to full on pages of reflection. Sometimes it’s as a simple as keeping a notebook nearby to jot or doodle in when you need a break.

Remember this: You Always Have a Choice so choose you.

you always have a choice