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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Why Better Time Management Can Be An Effective Stress-Buster

April is Stress Awareness Month, which aims to help provide people with the tools to recognise when they might be suffering from stress, and what they can do to combat it. According to the charity Mental Health UK, stress and related conditions such as burnout are on the rise, causing a concerning amount of people to take time off work.

Speaking to The Guardian, the charity’s chief executive Brian Dow said: “High levels of work absence due to poor mental health are a major challenge, but its causes are complex. Public attitudes and understanding towards mental health and work have changed, particularly as the workplace transformed overnight in response to the pandemic.”

“Meanwhile, we live in unprecedented times, and life outside work has become increasingly difficult due to the cost of living crisis and pressures on public services, while global challenges such as climate change and artificial intelligence fuel stress, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.”

It is understandable why more people might be experiencing stress in 2024, and there is generally a growing recognition of the problem. Most people will be able to recall a time when they felt under stress, whether it’s during school exams or juggling the demands of a career and family life.

Not all stress is bad for us; in fact it’s a necessary physical reaction to help us navigate difficult and demanding situations. When we are confronted with a stressful situation or a potential threat, our bodies automatically switch into ‘fight or flight’ mode.

This triggers the release of ‘stress’ hormones including adrenaline and cortisol, which were evolved to give us a rush of energy to fight an enemy or make a swift exit. This response can still be useful in modern contexts to help us avoid accidents or injury, or give us an edge in competitive sport. 

However, when this response is triggered by a situation where we need to think more clearly rather than expend physical effort, it can cause problems because the neurotransmitters send blood flowing to the muscles rather than the brain. Just when we really need to keep a clear head to stay on top of a situation, we can feel less capable than usual.

If we are repeatedly exposed to a stressful situation, we can have permanently elevated cortisol levels that can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. This can cause blood sugar levels to rise, and put us at a higher risk of weight gain, muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, depression and brain fog. 

Over time, chronic stress has been linked to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Therefore it’s essential that we do not accept long-term stress as a necessary evil of modern life, but take steps to manage it properly.

What is the best way to manage stress?

There’s plenty of advice about how to deal with stress, but unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people might have a genetic predisposition to more extreme stress responses, and people who have had traumatic life experiences tend to be more susceptible to chronic stress.

The most common pieces of advice that many people will already be aware of are taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s also frequently advised to spend more time on hobbies and interests, and nurture positive social relationships with family and friends and the local community.

There’s a lot of evidence that these techniques are effective in combating stress, but most of them require us to have a good work-life balance to achieve, such as making time to cook from scratch or go to the gym. 

This can be unhelpful for people who are suffering from stress precisely because they feel overwhelmed with their workload, whether in their jobs or family life. In this case, learning some time management techniques can be helpful.  

Constantly feeling as though we never have enough time to get everything done can leave us feeling too tired to take part in hobbies, socialising or exercise, and this can trigger mood swings, irritability, poor sleep, and difficulty concentrating. If the root cause of the problem is not addressed, it can escalate into anxiety and depression.

Time management involves planning out your day and allocating specific time slots for tasks, even breaks. It also involves learning to prioritise, so that you focus on what really matters and what can be done at a later date. Setting clear boundaries and learning to say no or delegate tasks can also be beneficial.

Some people may prefer to work with a therapist to use hypnotherapy to help them delve deeper into the causes of their stress and find a lasting solution.

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