YOU often hear someone utter the cliché: “Life is so stressful!” You may say it yourself every now and then. Living in a busy, fast-paced city, it seems inevitable that you experience stress in the workplace because of heavy workloads, tight deadlines, the constant pressure to perform and poor work relationships.

Major changes in your life, even happy occasions like getting married, having a child or getting promoted, can also be stressful. Everyone responds differently to stress. At the extremes, some people perform very well while others crumble under the pressure.

Generally, experts agree that some level of stress (positive stress) is good for you — it keeps the adrenaline flowing and gives you the drive to perform tasks to the best of your ability. You feel in control and are able to manage your stress level effectively.

Negative stress, on the other hand, leaves you feeling continually anxious and unable to cope. Prolonged periods of stress are known to affect work performance and are detrimental to your health.

Signs of negative stress
The symptoms of stress can be manifested in many ways, such as migraines, back problems, lethargy, loss of enthusiasm, loss of appetite, palpitations, interrupted sleep, loss of concentration, loss of confidence and falling sick often.

These symptoms are signs that your body is trying to regulate itself. Don’t ignore these signs — take immediate action to de-stress. Consult a doctor to help you manage the more severe symptoms. You will need to tackle the underlying cause of your negative stress. If it is work-related, it may involve a drastic move like changing employers or doing a different job.

Time out to de-stress
If you generally cope well but are looking to manage your stress more effectively, try these tips:

* Take short breaks away from your desk. Walk over to talk to a colleague or take a walk around the office building if you can’t find someone who is free to talk to. That five to 10-minute “break” does wonders and is especially energising.

* Treat yourself to a good lunch. This is more important if you have a very hectic day. Good food warms the heart and makes you feel good. Remember not to overeat, though.

* Do something different. Take a different route to work. If you drive, take public transport to work for a day. Look at the changing scenarios and observe people in the train and on the streets — something you would not be able to do if you are driving. It can be very refreshing.

* Make time for others. Your life should not revolve around work only. Make and spend quality time with your family and friends — and try not to think about work. If you have to bring work home, make a pact with yourself that you will spend no more than a certain number of hours on it. The rest of the time should be devoted to your loved ones.

* Make time for yourself. Do you have a hobby or favourite pastime? Whether it is copying inspirational verses, reading the latest novels, engaging in a sport or hunting for good food all over town, it will go a long way in helping you to relieve stress. No matter how busy you are, you must try to find time to do something you enjoy. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

* Manage your worries. You are not alone in worrying about your health, relationships, challenges at work, finances and so forth. But do something positive. Tell yourself that you will attempt to find a solution for whatever is worrying you. Give yourself a specific period of time to find the solution.

* Take your annual leave. No matter how busy you are, you deserve a break from work. You don’t have to take a long holiday. Short breaks of one to three days can help you relieve stress.
And when you are on leave, try not to worry about work. Do something you enjoy, like reading a book, relaxing at the beach, having a round of golf, going to the movies or simply staying at home with some DVDs. Just like batteries, you need to recharge for optimum performance.

Try doing some of these things. After that, try thinking about a new list of things you can do to de-stress. Your quality of life is in your hands. Manage it well.