Everyone seems to be stressed these days with work, study, money, family problems, children, health issues, business, bills or even party planning. Some people are actually stressed, while some just like to say that they are busy and stressed. It seems to be normal language in our society to say that we are stressed. Good work-life balance is the dream, but very few actually achieve that goal. In my experience, we cannot completely avoid stress, but chronic stress can be detrimental to health, so it is important to manage it well.
As someone who does not drink coffee, I have had to learn how to manage myself better to stay efficient without caffeine. I am not on a mission to get everyone off coffee, but like we say in medicine – the difference between a drug and a poison is the dose. Too much of anything is not good. In my latest book, Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress), I share several principles and practical tips for having a more balanced life, with less stress. I have shared a few here.
It is all about perspective
Sometimes, the things we stress about are actually not that important when we look at the big picture. Whether it has to do with money, relationships or work, it is useful to step back at times and see the bigger picture to help us determine how much emotional and mental energy we should be investing in any matter. In fact, some of the very things we complain about are the blessings someone else is praying for. For example, moving house could be seen as a blessing because you have a new home, or a curse because we have to pack and unpack! If we try to look at things from a more positive perspective of strength, we will find that many issues can be resolved without too many sleepless nights and worry. Also, when dealing with health problems, patients with a can-do, positive attitude, who take control and engage with professionals, usually do better.
Stress can sometimes come from having no vision or focus. We can easily find ourselves taking on more than we can handle and finding little satisfaction from all our hard work. It is worth taking time out to figure out what we really want out of life, work and relationships. This will help us communicate better and set achievable goals. Meeting our targets will in turn give us the feeling of fruitfulness and prosperity that we all want. In some circumstances, the wise choice is not the easiest. For example, a student who has to work hard to pass important exams is choosing to go through this temporary hard time, knowing that the qualifications he will gain will open doors for the life and job he wants in future. Having a clear focus and small targets will help us to endure the hard times less grudgingly, knowing that there is a bigger prize at the end.
It is important to recognize when it is all getting too much and be kind to ourselves. Take breaks on purpose and invest in relationships that are good for you. Spending time with friends and family can sometimes get dropped to the bottom of the list when we are really busy, but that social contact is good for our mental health. Building good relationships also helps us to feel more comfortable asking for help when we need it. You can have it all, but you cannot do it all! In managing stress, we have to be careful not to get drawn into negative coping mechanisms such as smoking, alcohol excess and unhealthy eating that are unhelpful in the long term. Make time for exercise, rest and important relationships. Looking after yourself is not selfish – it is wise.
About the author
Dr Afiniki Akanet is a medical doctor, wife and mother. She is the director of Evasitters UK (www.evasitters.co.uk) and the author of Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress), available from Amazon and other book retailers. She recently received an award from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) for her writing. Afiniki is also the founder of Forte, Charity for Inspiration, and loves encouraging people to do well. To find out more, go to www.afiniki.co.uk