Taking Control of Your Life Actions to Reduce Stress
When you are feeling under pressure, it is important to identify the main pressure points affecting you both at work and at home and to recognise that some sources of pressure are outwith your control. Sources of pressure over which you do have control can be tackled using a variety of strategies. There is no point wasting energy struggling to change those which are outwith your control.
Your Control Inventory
There are a number of elements that can reduce stress risk:
- Reflection – what is causing pressure?
- Analysis – do I have control over these sources of pressure?
- Acceptance – letting go of things outwith my control
- Prioritising – which are the most urgent issues?
- Planning – what strategies can I use to reduce the pressure?
- Action – putting into action relevant coping strategies
Follow the practical exercise below to help you deal with your sources of pressure. This kind of analysis and action planning is a wonderful stress management habit. If you can do this habitually, you will have progressively more and better feelings of control over the things that really matter in your life.
1. Draw up a list of the sources of pressure in your life. These could include home, work, relationships, environment etc.
2. Create a table with a left hand column for Things I have control over and a right hand column for Things I have no control over.
3. Place each item from your sources of pressure list into one of the two columns. That is, for each item decide quickly whether this is something you have ‘some control’ over or ‘no control’ over. This is your Control Inventory.
4. Once you have your two lists, challenge the list of items on the right. Do you really have no control over these things? Are there some, when you really think about them, where you do have some control? If so, move them into the left column.
5. Now, accept that you cannot control the things remaining on the right. ‘Release’ them, let them go. Stop trying to influence what you cannot control.
6. Concentrate your efforts on the list on the left. Go through the list and prioritise them. Which of these things are the most important in terms of your stress levels right now?
7. Select the five most important items in order of importance from the left hand column of your Control Inventory and write them on a page entitled ‘Things I can control – Actions to Reduce Stress.’
8. Start with the most important thing and do some action planning. What is the most important thing you could do now that would reduce your stress associated with that thing? Then think about what you can do in the near future, and then the medium future and so on. This is basic planning. Don’t be over-ambitious; concentrate most on what you can actually do in the short, medium and long term.
Don’t try to do everything at once but focus on the most important things first, even if that is only one thing. Make a commitment to yourself to do that thing or things. If you see that through, you will get a real sense of achievement. If, on the other hand, you are too ambitious, and don’t see it through, you will be disappointed and feel as if you have let yourself down. This will only add to your stress.
We hope you will find this stress management exercise useful. This tool is an extract from our Practical Approaches to Handling Pressure training course. If you would like to find out more about this course, please dont hesitate to contact us.