Balancing a busy professional life with a home and family life is quite enough for a person to handle, but add in the pressure of RO4 exams and you’ve got the distinct possibility of overwhelm and stress.
One thing I often advise when people come to me complaining of stress, is to notice exactly what the triggers are for that stress. Obviously the more we understand about the cause or causes, the better opportunity we have to change something for the better. But not just any old thing – the precise thing that needs changing.
Often people assume there’s nothing they can do about stress, but my clients don’t find that to be the case when they start to notice a few simple things.
So one thing you could do is start noticing what triggers your stress.
- Is it when things are not going your way?
- Is it when you’re just not keeping up with that mounting pile of work?
- Are you so busy trying to please other people that you’re not paying enough attention to what you need?
- Are you frustrated by other people’s incompetence?
- Are you annoyed when other people find things easier than you?
- Do you set yourself unrealistic goals?
- How about road rage? Is that a problem for you?
Maybe over the next week or two, you might begin to make a note of what gets the steam rising. And because you’re paying close attention to the triggers, you will be able to detect the patterns. And that gives you a fighting chance to hone in on the problem.
The next stage after you’ve got enough data to work with, is to look at those patterns and work out what you could do differently to handle those situations. What else could you do? Choose just one of those new responses and start applying it even when you don’t feel like it. Try it many, many times so you’ve got some more data to work with. This time you can ask yourself, am I better off with this new response than I was before? If the answer is ‘yes’ you might want to keep practising the new response until it becomes your new habit. If it’s no better than before, move on to another idea and try that in response to that particular trigger. Talk to somebody. Ask them to help you work out what else you can do in response to that trigger.
In the end, you can always take yourself away from that source of stress if that’s appropriate. But you’ve got to learn how to handle yourself otherwise you’ll find yourself reacting the same way in new similar situations. So for example some people are staggered to discover that despite moving away from a particular job to avoid a specific source of stress, the problem somehow seems to follow them into the next job and they’re no better off.
One thing that you can do when you feel the stress rising, is to just stop what you’re doing for a moment and concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs and let the air slowly out of your mouth. Do this 2 or 3 or 4 times and just remind yourself that the most important thing is your health. And just notice when you do that, already you’re beginning to feel calmer.
There are several lifestyle things that you can change all of which improve your outlook. For example, we’ve mentioned this before: get some exercise. Whether it’s 20 min of fast walking each day, or 2 or 3 games of squash a week, or a combination of fun activities that you enjoy. They all make an enormous difference to the way that you feel about yourself and the world, and your ability to cope.
Exercise also stimulates the nerve growth factor, NGF. NGF encourages the dendrites in your brain to make contact with other neurons. The more connections that they make, the more information you have in your head. More connections equals better memory.
Sports coaches know the importance of alternating high-level physical activity with complete relaxation. And by complete relaxation I don’t mean trying to read a book and helping the kids with their homework while watching the news on the telly! I mean good quality relaxation. For example the 10 min relaxation MP3 on the Genius-Material.com website in the resources section for the members. A lot of professionals have told me that just taking 10 min in their busy day to relax, allows them to unwind and be that much more productive afterwards.
Having systems in place to keep control of your workload is another good idea. Having processes and structured habits for example, so that you know where you’ve filed something, instead of spending time searching around the piles on your desk getting more and more anxious and cross.
If you are troubled by worries which are causing you your stress, there are plenty of techniques to help you get things in perspective and create a plan of action to make the changes necessary to alleviate the stress.
For example: focusing on the challenge or problem:
- Write down 3 positive things about the problem. You might have to to dig deep for the answers because most people aren’t in the habit of looking for the positive instruct situations.
- Write down what it is that isn’t yet the way that you want it to be.
- Write down what you’re willing to do, to get the result you want.
- Write down what you’re willing to stop doing to get the result you want.
- Write down what you can do and what you can focus on to motivate yourself to get these things done.
- Write down one thing you can do today to kick-start the process.
And that should start you focusing on the source of the stress and will help you therefore identify what needs changing – the environment – or your approach to it, so that revising for RO4 exams becomes a pleasant activity, rather than yet another problem.