Do you sometimes get that feeling that you’re not quite yourself? You’re a bit wound up, find it hard to relax your brain, and you wake up after a night of sleep but don’t feel refreshed. Stress is a funny thing in that it is very individual in its expression. You really need to work out what your individual signals of stress are. A clear signal for me is that my eye twitches. I sit in meetings acutely aware I’m twitching away at my client. I mightn’t feel stressed but my body is telling me I am. Some say there is good stress (eustress) and bad stress, and it’s when I hit the bad stress that my eye twitches. What’s your equivalent of an eye twitch? Do you know? If you don’t, have a think about it. Reflect on past experiences. Maybe ask someone close to you if they have noticed your stress signals. Once you can pin point them you can go into action to get on top of it and get back to a more comfortable and healthy state.
As a practice owner you wear a lot of hats. It isn’t easy jumping from task to task, hat to hat, feeling skilled at some things and terrible at others. It can be so tiring, and stressful. So, it’s important for you to recognise when you have tipped over into the unhealthy stress and take some steps to get on top of it. Here are some strategies to help keep an even keel.
Spend time tidying your desk and office space. Throw away that pile of reading you know you are never going to find time to read, put loose papers in folders, get a tray for the documents you are working on instead of having them all over your desk, dust and clean everything. Now, open your emails and read and file everything. You’ll feel so much better knowing you haven’t missed responding to anything and that you are on top of your emails.
Gain control with clear planning
Write a list of your tasks and prioritise them. Now, look at your calendar for the next month and see what days you have free. Schedule in your tasks. This way it’s out of your head, you know everything you have to get done and you know that there is enough time to do it all.
If there is something significant hanging over your head, the best thing is going to be to get stuck in and smash it out. Get it done! Stay up till 1am if you have to. Better to work hard and get it out of the way so it’s not hanging over your head making you feel burdened for an extended period.
How hard is this when you feel stressed? You tell yourself you don’t have time to relax and your brain won’t chill out anyway. This takes practice and self-restraint. Active downtime can be a good way of dealing with this because you don’t have time to think about work. Get into your garden, go to the gym, take the kids to the park, have a coffee with a friend. Before you do this, you’re going to want to give yourself permission to have downtime otherwise you’ll feel guilty the whole time and then what’s the point.
If you don’t get deep restful sleep your brain can’t file your memories from the day properly. Tomorrow you’ll be forgetful and way less productive. Work out how many hours sleep you need to function well. It’s different for everyone. You might need to work out a routine in order to get into sleep mode when you are stressed. Try setting an alarm on your phone an hour before you want to actually be asleep. When it goes off, get ready for bed and do some wind down activities in bed such as colouring in or reading. Ironically enough, I actually like to do an active activity like a crossword (an easy one) as I find this directs my thoughts onto an activity that has an end. It redirects and then switches off my brain.
Stress is not good for your health or your practice. It kind of sneaks up on you, but if you can take control when you notice your twitch, you can get back to your old self in no time.