1. Take a break before you think you need one.

The time to take a break is when there is work still to be done, not when you are so exhausted you can barely function. Working too hard becomes counterproductive, we become slow and more likely to make mistakes. Taking well timed breaks, even just a minute or two, has been shown to increase efficiency and focus. Avoid screens on your break for even more benefit and allow your brain to rest and return to work with renewed attention.

2. Positive coping strategies not negative ones.

It is human nature to want to deal with stress with a quick win, meaning we often adopt unhelpful coping strategies such as drinking or smoking which don’t help at all in the long run. Take a minute to recognise what is driving an unhelpful behaviour such as that glass of wine every night after work. Once recognised it is easier to then delay or substitute the unhelpful coping strategy with a improved and more positive solution – be it going for a walk, taking a bath, reading, or singing … whatever works for you.

3. Avoid the stress in the first place and drop the rope!

Some stress is unavoidable, desirable even. However, we can cut down on unnecessary stress. What can you cut out or say no to? Recognise the micro stressors in your life and try and change just one over the next few weeks.

–  If you also lose your car keys get a hook or a bowl to keep them in the same place each time you use them.
– If your commute is making you stressed, can you leave earlier or take a different form of transport now and again?
– If your house is a mess, can you live with it, clean one small area or get a cleaner?
– Have a colleague who drives you mad? Avoid them as much as possible!

If you are holding onto anger about something however small, can you let it go? There is a well-known metaphor to illustrate the power of this. Imagine you are engaged in a tug of war with a huge, nasty monster. The monster represents whatever is causing you stress or anger. You each have hold of one end of the rope and between you is a huge ravine. If the monster pulls harder you will fall in the ravine, so you pull with all your energy, give all that you have, dig you heels in the mud and focus on nothing else but pulling that rope to prevent falling in. Now imagine if you were to just drop the rope and walk away…Look at the bigger picture, will this matter in a week, in a month, in a year? If not, can you drop the rope and let it go?

4. Eat the frog

Remember if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. What is the one thing you absolutely must do today or the thing you keep putting off? That is your frog, identify and then eat the frog by doing that task first. Brian Tracy advises that you should tackle the hardest and most important thing on your to do list first each day. This will bring a huge sense of achievement and control and make a real difference to stress levels.

5. Ask for help

If you are really overwhelmed with stress and it is affecting your sleep, mood, or ability to enjoy life – it is time to ask for help. It can be incredibly hard to see the wood for the trees when you are feeling like this, and it will really help to get an objective opinion and support. As a GP I help people who are experiencing stress all the time and most employers have great support structures and employee assistance programs in place. Asking for help is not a failure. No man is an island, and it really can make all the difference.

Written by Dr Helen Garr

If you want to hear more from Dr Helen Garr she will be speaking at our next event The SHE Show North East, Tuesday 28th March 2023, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead


Dr Helen Garr, The Wellbeing GP

Dr Helen Garr, AKA the Wellbeing GP, is an experienced GP, expert and leader in the field of mental health and wellbeing. Helen is known for her energetic and interactive talks that leave her audience with practical takeaway tools to improve their health and wellbeing. She expertly delivers the science, evidence and solutions behind improving our mental health and wellbeing both at home and at work in a way that is fun, relatable and accessible to staff of all levels. Helen is currently Medical Director Designate of NHS Practitioner Health – the largest health care professional mental health treatment service of its kind in the world, former Public Health England Clinical Champion for physical activity and has a background in psychology and coaching. 

Please note, the views expressed by the original article author are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent those of Washingtondowling Associates Ltd or The SHE Show and therefore we take no responsibility for the content or accuracy of this post.