Stress Management

In today’s busy world where we have so many responsibilities and so little time, stress seems to be inevitable. Those who learn to deal with it wisely and use it to boost their performance have an advantage over others. During ABC#29 Networking & Stress Management event, Antwerp Business Community gathered to discuss this crucial topic & brainstorm about the ways to handle stress better. This post is a summary of the group discussion of our guests.

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Causes of stress

Stress is natural and there is no need to fight or deny it. It is just a reaction of your mind to the external or internal stimulus that you need to notice, understand and embrace. If you do so, stress can even lead to positive results: making you more efficient, motivating you or providing with new opportunities.

Unfortunately, not all of us know our body and mind well enough even to realize that we are currently under stress. Carefully observing yourself and changes that are happening with your body and emotional state is will help you to evaluate your well-being. Among the most common signs of stress you can find: poor quality of sleep & abnormal appetite (too little or too much), short temper and being easily annoyed, the tension in muscles & inability to relax, anxiety & panic attacks, emotional exhaustion & constant tiredness.

The next step is to understand the root cause of the stress you experience. It is important to remember that stress is just a symptom of something bigger. There are many stress management techniques and ways to reduce it, however, to be really stress-free you need to tackle stess from the system perspective and work on the root cause.

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What causes stress? Surprisingly, very often we do it by ourselves. We do it by setting too high expectations or following the expectations set to us by others and failing to meet them in reality. We also do it by overthinking our problems & things we do not feel 100% comfortable with: risk or uncertainty, lack of control, a toxic environment or bad relationships with other people.

Sometimes stress is a reaction to the external situation: lack of resources (money, debt, time); lack of experience (being dependent) or competition. In other times, stress is the indirect result of our bad habits: unhealthy lifestyle (lack of sleep, too much caffeine, fast food, alcohol) or lack of productivity (extensive multitasking, abusive use of social media, poor time management and lack of prioritization).

As you see, most of the root causes of stress start with our own mindset and the way we choose to look at the situation.

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How to handle stress?

While finding out and solving the true root cause might be challenging and time-consuming, there are many “low-hanging fruits”  – stress-management techniques that will help you in the short term.

The basic principle most of us probably use is a change of focus. When things get tough and you feel that you do not make any progress for a long time, do not force it. Instead, do something else that gives you energy and fulfillment. It can be anything you like: working out or going outside, reading or watching a movie, listening to music or singing. Spend time with your family and friends, share with them your concerns – it is important to open up and not to keep all your worries just for yourself. Adjust your environment: when even your house and desk are messy, it is very difficult to have other aspects of your life under control. When you are recharged, it will be easier for you to look back and put things in perspective to think clearly and find a more efficient way to solve a problem.

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To become stress-resilient in a more long-term perspective you need to take your lifestyle seriously: take care of the food you eat, the sleep you receive, maintain a work-life balance. Practicing meditation (yoga, breathing exercises) and mindfulness (journaling, visualizations, disconnecting from social / internet) on a regular basis makes it easier for you to manage your emotions and control your reactions to the unforeseen circumstances. Also, it is important to teach yourself to see positive things in everything: exercising gratitude could help with it (5 daily things you feel grateful for; “feel good” folder in the mailbox)

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To sum up, we need to take the topic of stress management seriously before it personally hits us: proactively building resilience to stress and improving the quality of our lives will eventually allow us to turn challenges into opportunities. “When it comes to handling stress, start with yourself: we are our own most effective, powerful resource.”  If interested in the topic, check out the Ted Talk by psychologist Kelly McGonigal “Ho to make stress your friend”.


P. S.  If you are based in Belgium and looking for an opportunity to expand your network, check out Antwerp-Business-Community monthly networking events in Antwerp focused on knowledge exchange about leadership and business.

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