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Manage your time to manage your stress

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus this year is on stress. Living and working in a busy city naturally brings stress to ones’ life, one thing that I find helps to beat stress both in and out of work is time management.

Having grown up in NZ with a population of just over 4.5 million and plenty of land, life was peaceful and relaxed. I started my career as an auditor with a big 4 and had a calm and composed career before making the move to Hong Kong to join a top US investment bank where we were required to work around the clock at times. A few years down the track, an opportunity in recruitment was presented to me and I chose to switch my career over to a high pressured sales driven environment.

As you can see, I have by choice, transitioned myself from a calm and stress-manageable environment to highly stressful environments. Many ask me how I managed it? I’ve come to realise that it’s impossible to completely ignore or avoid stress, be it a result of your own actions or not, so I believe in finding ways to manage stress instead of letting it manage you.

What is stress?

The scientific definition of stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When we sense danger, be it real or imaginary, our body’s defences kick into high gear, “fight or flight” or “stress response” kicks in, which is our body’s way of protecting us. 

You’ll feel a rush of adrenaline, your heart pounds faster, your muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and naturally, your senses become sharper.

Why is stress so dangerous?

Stress can lead to many health problems including depression and anxiety, poor sleep including insomnia, autoimmune diseases, digestive problems, chronic body aches and pain, heart diseases, reproductive issues, skin conditions, weight issues and the list goes on.

Stress can also severely affect your memory, your ability to concentrate and also your ability to make the right judgement at times. Leading to poor performance at work, moodiness, irritation, anger and general unhappiness.

How can one manage stress?

There are many tips out there on how to manage stress including the likes of avoiding stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine; exercising and getting more sleep; relaxation techniques such as yoga or self-hypnosis; sharing your thoughts with close ones etc. I personally find that time management and learning to say “no” at times, works best for me.

So what is time management all about?

In essence, time management is the process of organising and planning how you want to divide your time between specific activities/things you have to do.

When I feel that I’m about to face a stressful week, or even day, due to tight deadlines, I always make an effort to make a list of everything I need to get done in that week or day. I then go through the list and prioritise to determine which matters are more pressing than others so I can attend to them first, before then going back to attend to the less pressing matters. 

I even ask myself if something really has to get done or is it something that I’ve just taken on out of my own kindness and is increasing the pressure and stress to myself. If this is the case, I sometimes just have to go back and say "no" to taking on that additional task. 

Once you’ve prioritised and determined what needs to get done first, you should then assess the timeframes you are working with and block out set times in your calendar so you have allocated slots to get things done. This will also help you manage expectations of those at the receiving end, which can also help to manage your stress levels better.

Give it a go and see if it helps you manage your stress levels better! 

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