Don’t forget about your mental health: 5 tips to reducing stress this year

With a reliance on digital communication, a strong wifi connection and endless emails to sort through, you might become prone to stress and anxiety. Here, I discuss some top tips to overcoming stress thanks to Miriam-Robin Linnemann’s tips.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my first month back to work was wildly hectic.

Just like the first day back at school, you expect to ease back in slowly with your first day outfit, new folders and the expectation that you’re just dipping your toes back in. But reality hit, and now you’re dealing with a wave of emails, meetings to reconvene on, and the workload you told yourself was ‘a task for your future self.’

The aspect that needs to change, the thing that will make 2021 infinitely more successful than 2020 is your mindset. I attended a LinkedIn Live session with The Female Lead on how to reduce stress, and it was enlightening just how all-consuming we can all be during work – to the point where our mental health takes a toll.

Edwina Dunn, founder of The Female Lead, spoke with Miriam-Robin Linnemann about how to cope with stress coming into 2021. Miriam is a mental health advocate, founder of The Honest Talks, and former HR professional with a mission is to empower others to love themselves and their lives. Here were some of her takeaways.

Take it one step at a time

Writing lists down feels infinitely more productive than just letting all your tasks ruminate in your head. Put your thoughts to paper and create a list of tasks to get done. A more pressing challenge, however, is looking at that list and asking yourself “Okay where do I start?”

Miriam advises to start with the smallest step and start with what makes the biggest impact. This can result in a colossal weight off your shoulders if one particular task is stressing you out.

She says: “If there's about 20 tasks that are stressing us out, we can only do one at a time, and that’s when it’s really helpful to ask yourself what would make the biggest difference in my life right now? And actually, what's the really tiniest first step I can do to move towards what I want, and then take it?”

One tip to figuring this out is to write down your list on the left side of a sheet of paper and then on the right side, write down the impact of accomplishing each task.

Take breaks frequently

You may think that working through your breaks will increase overall productivity, but countless studies have shown that your performance actually gets worse when you’re focused too long on one specific task. So, if you have an enormous project, chunk it up so that you can tackle it in a healthy way.

If you’re overloaded with Zoom meetings, don’t be afraid to turn off the screen for 15 minutes and get a coffee. No, seriously. Staring at screens for too long can strain your eyes or make the symptoms of existing eye conditions worse. Make sure you’re looking away every 15 minutes or so at the very least.

Remember to take breaks during the day when you need them, and don’t be afraid to communicate if you’re feeling stressed.

Reaffirm yourself with positive affirmations

It might be silly, but take the time to give yourself positive self-talk. You no longer have colleagues to give you that much-needed pep talk during a coffee break. Instead, you need to tell yourself that you’re going to get through whatever dilemma you might be facing. It is hard to do alone, but it’s even worse when you’re piling on negative self-talk and fixating on your self-limiting beliefs.

One thing Miriam tells herself in stressful situations is that she has phenomenal coping skills.

She says: “That is a great coping skill, especially if you're in the middle of a stressful situation, your mind will say: ‘how can I learn or how can I grow from this situation?’ even if it's challenging at the moment. It’ll say: ‘how will I come out as a better person at the other end of it’?”

Measure lifestyle changes

Miriam mentions that if you’re stressed, having unhealthy eating and sleeping habits will only worsen your mental health.

One tip she gave was to measure your lifestyle changes. Meal prepping can help immensely, even if it’s only for your morning breakfast or lunch. You can also start a food journal to track your eating habits (especially if you have a habit of calling your morning coffee, breakfast).

According to a study, waking up repeatedly in the night was 13% more common in remote workers. You can download apps such as Sleep Cycle, which analyses your sleeping patterns during the night to see how much REM sleep you’re truly getting. If you find that your sleep patterns are getting worse, maybe you need less screen time in the evening or maybe stress is causing your restlessness. When you’re able to measure these aspects of your professional life, you can start to come up with solutions.

Cope with anxieties and fears

Anxiety is something that can easily be triggered by stress from work.

Miriam says: “I think what's most valuable is to realise that anxiety and fear is the story that we made up in our head. That's where it comes from, from our words. No one ever told us that we can change that story. You need to be aware of your triggers.”

While triggers are very individual, especially with Covid-19, anxiety can sometimes be triggered by a lack of control.

She says: “Obviously it's also worrying when we hear from friends or family that are getting sick. And I think what's very helpful in that kind of situation is to focus on what we CAN control. If we let our triggers control us, we'll be stressful for the rest of our lives.”

This also means giving up control over every little aspect of your business as well. So, if you’re stressed over budget, maybe you can have a conversation with your CFO. If you’re feeling Zoom fatigue, ask your colleague if it can be a phone call instead.

Don’t let the stress fester over aspects of your job that you can’t control. You just need to learn how to cope with it in a healthy way.

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