Stress-proofing yourself

1 October 2014

Annette Milligan, a nurse entrepreneur who has run stress management courses and seminars for 24 years, shares some of her top stress-proofing tips.

Physical fitness

  • it’s easier to manage stress when you’re physically fit
  • exercise and stretch throughout the day
  • huffing/puffing (aerobic) exercise will help you to generate endorphins, which lift mood.

Humour

  • smile – when you smile, your brain automatically produces endorphins
  • laughter produces even more endorphins
  • play funny games, share jokes, read cartoons and books, and watch videos
  • start a humour box at work –collect cartoons, jokes and props which help you laugh
  • laugh on the way home about one funny thing that happened during the day.

Separate home from work

  • leave unfinished work at work
  • leave work while you still have energy – otherwise, you will grind yourself to a standstill
  • never work in bed – the bedroom should be a place of fun and relaxation
  • have a shower and change your clothes when you get home from work
  • distract yourself from work-related thoughts by losing yourself in a good book, movie, conversation, or even an attempt at juggling!

Make life easier on yourself

  • carry things in a backpack or trolley rather than loading yourself with a heavy bag
  • wear comfortable clothes — buy the right size (especially shoes and trousers) and wear low heels
  • pay someone to clean the house, mow the lawns, or do things you don’t have time to do
  • if things don’t work – fix them or throw them out.

Boost your stress immune system

  • change the words you use to change your perception:
  • feel the difference between saying ‘I’m depressed’ and ‘I’m feeling a bit down’ or between ‘I’m stressed’ and ‘I’m challenged’
  • in a difficult situation tell yourself ‘that’s interesting’ and notice the difference
  • physical touch will boost our immune system, so have a massage or stroke the cat.

Develop support networks

  • take time out to nurture your relationships – go for walks, do things together, welcome them home.
  • you don’t have to go through life alone – share your problems and successes with other trusted people
  • Be ready to admit that you need help.

Change patterns of beliefs

  • take a good look at your beliefs and challenge them — they often feel comfortable because we’ve had them a long time but they’re not always true
  • look at some of the beliefs and expectations you have about yourself and see if they’re really relevant e.g. “I’ve always been like that”, “it’s easier to do it myself”, “no pain, no gain” or “life wasn’t meant to be easy”
  • change the beliefs you want to change by changing your thoughts, mixing with positive people or listening to motivational tapes.

Nutrition

  • eat breakfast
  • eat from the food pyramid
  • be especially careful to eat nourishing food
  • when you’re under a lot of stress.

Give yourself bonuses

  • send yourself flowers
  • buy in take-aways
  • go to a movie.

Always have a purpose in life

  • if you’re not happy with something, do something about it
  • change one thing in your life at a time and stick to it for six weeks to set a pattern which will last for a long time
  • the most long-term changes are the ones we slowly absorb into our life.

Set boundaries

  • learn to say “no!
  • decide how much time you’re going to give and stick with that i.e. “when I’m on, I‘m on, and when I’m off, I’m off”.

About the author: Annette Milligan is the founder of Nelson’s INP Medical Clinic (formerly known as the Independent Nursing Practice) and workplace health and safety firm Ramazzini.