Therapist Blog

Three simple ways to reduce stress

These are my first three rules to keep the excitement of 21st life becoming too overwhelming.

1. Assess the damage

I’ve found in my life and in my counselling practice that some stress is caused by worrying over something relatively minor. Using a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst thing you can imagine happening, put an event in your current set of worries that corresponds to each number.

Your list will reflect your priorities. Unless you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one recently, or you’re going through divorce, this exercise forces you to re-appraise and to realise that there are no 10 on your list. A house burning down will affect each of you very differently so that event may vary from a 6 to a 10 - depending on things like how long you've lived there, what precious irreplaceable items were burnt in the fire and so on.

Once you’ve made that list, refer to it from time to time. Try to develop a sense of proportion about events and situations. Are they life-threatening, life-altering? Or are you making a disaster and catastrophe out of something you should learn to deal with?

Three simple ways to reduce stress

Once you know you're running late: don't look at the clock

That's advice I find hard to follow myself, but we all know that looking at the clock only adds to your stress – it never goes backwards.

These days, you can use your mobile (cell) to let people know you're going to be late or that you won’t make it at all.

Use the 'assess the damage' approach. Being late for a dinner date, or a meeting - even a meeting where you're the chair, well quite frankly I hope that you've put that down as a 1 to 3. If you're late picking up your child from crèche, school or kindergarten make that a 3 to 7. However, you'll have said: "if I'm late, ____ can go home with X or stay with the Principal etc". And of course you've called ahead.

They’re two de-stress tactics to cope with time and far more productive than clock-watching.

3: Ask For Help

Many people who suffer from stress find it hard to ask for help. They don't like to admit that they can't cope. The other amazing twin to that phenomenon is how thrilled people are to be asked to help you. Absolutely. If you're a first-time parent and you ask your neighbour to look after your new baby for an hour, what will happen? Either she'll be more than delighted to do so, or she'll insist you ask her the next day.

If you're an executive with a tight deadline, you'll have to call in favours, or hire an extra person or three to help you meet the deadline. Far better for your stress levels and your health to accept that you can't do it all yourself - this time around.