April is Stress Awareness Month and managing stress was the key theme of Cambridge Network’s recent Learning Collaboration PA Forum and Peer Learning Group, hosted by Pure. This forum brings together PAs, Executive Assistants and senior secretaries to share peer-to-peer learning and common challenges. The event was facilitated by mindfulness and wellbeing coach Louise Lloyd, and with so much fantastic information included we wanted to share some of the top tips discussed.
Distinguish between positive and negative stress
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Positive stress, or pressure, can be extremely motivating. It challenges and engages you to work hard to achieve your goal. Negative stress happens when pressure becomes too much and you start to feel that the demands placed upon you are more than you can cope with.
Being in tune with your emotions helps you to control your responses. Acknowledge if you are feeling stressed and look at whether there is anything within your control to change. There will be times when there is nothing you can do. Accept the situation for what it is. Don’t try to struggle against it, focus on what you can control and remind yourself that you can only do what you can.
Stop and digest
Slow down, take a deep breath and give yourself time to think. Have you understood the situation properly? When it feels like nothing but demands are being placed upon you, its easy to automatically assume every request is urgent. The aim is to get to the stage where you can think more clearly, decide what the priorities are, consider what help you could ask for and to develop a plan of action.
Sit up straight and relax your shoulders
Scientific research has shown that one of the best ways to remain calm when you are feeling overwhelmed is to sit up straight. A better posture and different muscle positions are thought to influence our mood by impacting on how our nervous system works. Our shoulders are also one of the most common places to carry stress. Focussing on releasing any tension here can improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, making you feel more relaxed and clearer headed.
Everything in life happens one breath at a time and breathing exercises can have an immense impact on how we are feeling. Focusing on your breathing can help to release stress, calm your mind and reconnect you with the present moment. More information about the breathing and posture techniques which Louise shared can be found here.
Focus on ‘the now’
A key mindfulness technique to help reduce stress is to focus on ‘the now’. When you develop mindfulness, you pay attention to what is around you right now, instead of focusing on the past, which you can't change, or the future, which you can't fully predict. Focus on completing one task at a time and to the best of your ability. This can really help to shift your perspective and make you feel less rushed.