This is taken from an essay I wrote in 2016 about Stress Management…
Over the past couple of years, I have had to learn ways by which to reduce stress in my life. This is due in large part to a stress-related illness (psoriatic arthritis) that I first suffered three years ago, which left me unable to walk, write or do any of the things I enjoy. In addition to these limitations I was in constant pain, and had to rely on a mixture of medications to reduce pain and inflammation and provide me with a way to regain mobility.
Not wanting to rely on medications long-term, I had to learn more about the causes of my illness, and found that stress is a major contributing factor to inflammatory illnesses. I spent considerable time reading and researching methods to reduce stress. The first step for me was to identify my stressors, and learn how to remove or reduce the impact of these stressors. For me, I was working full-time in a stressful occupation, with management who I was constantly at loggerheads with, I was studying a full-time workload, and I was a board member on three separate community committees. By anyone’s reckoning, I was working far too hard. For me, I needed to take a different approach to my work, which was to become a 9am-5pm worker with minimal involvement after hours and weekends, where previously I had committed up to 15 hours per week of voluntary contribution in addition to my forty paid hours. I resigned from all three committees of management, still remaining involved for small parts of the events that these committees run. By making these changes, I had more time to spend resting, planning, exercising and being a happier, healthier and less stressed person.
The second step was to maintain this new routine. As my health improved, I found myself wanting to give more to my community, which meant depriving myself of rest, relaxation, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Learning to say no was the most important lesson I have ever learnt in my life.
After learning to say no to the things that didn’t matter, or didn’t interest me, I had more time for me, and the things that matter most. In turn, this meant that I had more time for thinking about where I want to be, and how to get there. I reassessed my career path, and found that the study I was doing was for progression in a field that I didn’t want to continue in.
The third important thing I learnt was to celebrate small wins by finding fulfilment in personal goals rather than work goals. I had been measuring my self worth through annual work-related performance appraisals, and had to spend time assessing myself on different measures in order to realise that I was successful and achieving great things. Kaplan (2008) writes about the importance of knowing yourself in terms of writing down your strengths and weaknesses (Kaplan 2008, p. 46). I think this is a very useful process. This means that you are measuring yourself against yourself and your personal potential, not against standardised criteria, such as a performance evaluation. You can then use the results from this personal assessment to determine what training, coaching and other personal development you require to get where you want to be.
For me it took a personal crisis to learn some important lessons in self-management with a particular focus on stress management, but also learning more about myself in order to achieve the career and life that I want.
Kaplan, RS 2008, ‘Reaching Your Potential’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 86, no. 7/8, pp. 45-49.