Even at the best of times, stress is at our sides. In the right dose and at the right moment, it can be a force for good, pushing us to reach a deadline, stay focused and think creatively. But it also has its downsides. Stress becomes a problem when everyday anxieties pile up without an escape valve. That type of stress can lead to negativity, burnout and, maybe worst of all, stress-induced sleep loss. Fortunately, there are tips and techniques to make the most out of this human experience. Below we tackle some common causes of stress and offer tips for making sure it doesn’t get in the way of outstanding sleep.
After a relaxing weekend, the last thing you want to do is weed through a pressing pile of emails. But the reality of Monday mornings (and the reason for so many anti-Monday memes) is that work piles up while we’re away and springs on us when we return.
Divide and Conquer
First, practice acceptance. Once you come to terms with the idea that Mondays are a challenge, they’ll look a whole lot less scary. Next, take it in stride. Break up your morning to-do list into bite-size chunks and move through each one methodically. Viewing your workload in individual parts gives you a sense of accomplishment each time you check off a task.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Have a Laugh
Laughter has been shown to reduces stress, increase endorphins, and help you cope with challenging situations, so indulge in your favorite funny blog or podcast to start your morning. When in doubt, look away from the screen and take a few deep breaths. Or have a quick chat with a co-worker and relive some happy moments from the weekend.
By managing stress as it comes up throughout the day, you’re less likely to hold onto it into the evening, which should be reserved for rest and recuperation.
If public speaking makes you nervous, you’re not alone. For many people, addressing a group or giving a presentation brings about angst and a spike in cortisol.
But according to Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress, stress can be used to your advantage. She recommends thinking of stress as a powerful force to be wielded rather than a sensation to be squashed. An adrenaline rush signals that you genuinely care about doing well (a great trait to have), so allow that knowledge to give you a boost of confidence.
By embracing stress rather than fearing it, you can take control of the way it affects you and prevent it from running amok.
Strike a Power Pose
To make sure you’re using stress to your advantage and not letting it overtake you, take a tip from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language, and channel your inner wonder woman (or superman!). With legs shoulder width apart, push your shoulders back, straighten your spine and put your hands on your hips. Cuddy’s research shows spending just a few minutes in this power pose before a stressful event can reduce cortisol and increase testosterone—the hormone responsible for feelings of power and dominance.
Many of us experience this on Sunday evenings before the start of a work week: We start looking ahead at all we have to do, worrying about how we’ll get it all done. One survey revealed that as many as 59% of Americans experience acute “Sunday Night Blues,” the feeling of dread experienced as weekend relaxation comes to a close and work-week pressures loom.
If thoughts and to-dos tend to creep up on you towards the end of the day, try planning ahead with a fun activity that will distract you and keep your thoughts positive. No matter how much you want get a jump on the week before bed, don’t short yourself on relaxation. Enjoy your free time in the evening and tackle the harder tasks when you’re recharged and ready the next day.