Assess your stress
Posted on 9 November 2015
As we approach year-end, the pressure to complete work or prepare for exams begins to mount. Left unchecked, stress can take a huge toll on your mind and body. Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Milnerton, suggests ways to cope.
While holidays beckon, getting through everything we need to complete before we can finally relax can leave us feeling emotionally and physically depleted. ‘Burnout is particularly common towards the end of the year,’ says Nicky. ‘Many haven’t taken a decent break during the course of the year and the build-up of the year’s stress related to work and studies begins to culminate. We tend to push ourselves hard to reach the finish line for the year and don’t listen to our bodies that may be reacting to high stress levels through sleeplessness, low energy levels, headaches and more.’
Reduce your stress
Nicky suggests following these tips to reduce stress and promote physical and mental wellbeing:
• Schedule time off. We schedule appointments and meetings in our diary, so why don’t we do the same for time off? Schedule time to go for a walk, read a book or visit a friend.
• Learn to delegate. There are only so many hours in the day, so it’s impossible to do everything. Take a look at certain tasks or responsibilities that can be delegated to give you more time for the important things.
• Surround yourself with people who give you energy, and don’t drain it.
• Spend less time online. While the internet keeps us connected and allows us access to information, spending too much time in front of electronic devices increases stress levels.
• Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended for adults, which helps with better focus, energy levels and mood during the day.
The effects of stress
While stress affects people differently it can lead to any number of health issues. ‘If you have a history of anxiety and/or depression, you may be more vulnerable to stress and burnout,’ says Nicky. ‘Stress can have detrimental effects on your physical wellbeing, and many people first present with physical symptoms including headaches, low energy levels, stomach problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hair loss, insomnia, muscular pain, and so on. If you have limited social support and access to resources, this can increase your risk of stress and burnout.’ In extreme cases, unabated stress can even lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Dealing with exam stress
For students approaching year-end exams, stress sometimes seems inescapable. Nicky shares the following stress-management strategies:
• Set a timetable that’s realistic and gives you a clear idea about what you need to focus on for each study session.
• Schedule regular breaks in your study timetable (preferably take a break outdoors to get fresh air).
• Keep a healthy balance during the exam period by including regular exercise, adequate sleep (at least 7-9 hours a night for adults and 8-10 hours for teenagers) and a healthy diet (foods high in sugar can negatively impact on your energy and concentration).