20 ways to reduce stress levels

MORE than 45 million working days have been lost in the UK due to stress, anxiety and depression in the past three years. Last year alone a record 17 million working days were lost, costing the economy at least £2.4 billion, according to the UK Statistics Authority.

There has also been a 495% increase in Anti-depressant prescriptions since 1991 in the UK too. (Source: London School of Economics)

It is my view that we all exist on a ‘mind health spectrum’. We are neither mentally healthy or unhealthy, but we move from positive to negative over time on a continuum. The mounting pressures in our work and personal lives can impact us all in relation to this.

In our training and coaching work, one of the ‘21 Positive Insights‘ we focus on (under PI Self-Leadership) is that of Personal Wellbeing.

In this 2-part article, I want to share 20 ways in which you can reduce your stress levels, be fulfilled and keep on top of your game. I’ll also share how these have been applied and worked for me.

So let’s begin with sleep!

1. Get the right amount of sleep for you

If you’re like me you will like simple solutions! I read Thrive by Arianna Huffington over Christmas and one thing from that book struck a chord. How much sleep should we have and how much do we get? I’ve always heard of people who function with 4 hours sleep but believed I couldn’t do that. Instead the book advocates being aware of how much sleep you feel you need and then get it! I know I don’t function well if I don’t get 7 hours sleep, so now I ensure I’m in bed prior to the time I need to be asleep to get my 7 hours in readiness for the time I need to wake up next day. Simple! How about you?

2. Getting devices and email to serve you

Mobile devices and email should serve you not direct you. Many people start their day without a plan and go straight into email. I advocate looking at email 3 or 4 times a day and ensuring you don’t have email open when you are working on important tasks. Let your priorities and your daily plan drive your day. Also, put your mobile devices away in the evening, at least an hour or so before you go to sleep. Don’t be a slave to your mobiles and emails.

3. Close down your day

Following on from above, many business leaders and owners can find themselves working late into the evening and working 7 days a week. I aim to finish by 7.00 pm each day and then I do 4 things. I take note of the positive things about the day, I create a plan for the next day, I close down the Laptop and close down the day psychologically too. I endeavour to put work out of my mind until the next day. The other structure I work to is to only work 6 days and have Saturdays off completely. This all works for me and I hope it gets you thinking about how you can ensure you get time out.

4. Exercise and diet are your foundation

You know what it’s like when you have been through the festive season? Drinking more than normal, eating more of the wrong things? Not exercising? Do you feel less energetic and motivated as the year starts? You bet! Swimming and other exercise helps me hugely to stay alert and energised. I also work on what I eat, as I know how that can impact too. We all know how important this is; it’s a matter of settling into a good pattern of behaviour for you.

5. Your psychology is critical

If you have heard me speak, read my book or worked with me in any way you’ll know how much importance I put into this area. We have a constant internal dialogue and we are driven by our own thinking. Do you have strategies to keep your ‘destructive self’ at bay and enhance your ‘potential self’? I’d happily help with a few initial ideas you can use to keep your mind health positive. I have had my own challenges with this and am passionately interested in this area.

6. Connection is everything

When the going gets tough we can sometimes close down from those close to us, friends, family and colleagues. But research has found time and time again how connection with others can support us. Not only that, but our loved ones and other contacts benefit hugely from connection with us. I make quality time for my partner Rebecca, my daughter Thea, and other people who are important in my life. Plan time in, pick up the phone and stay connected!

7. Take time out to be present and quiet

My good friend Natalie has provided me with a meditation audio which I now listen to most mornings. It quietens my mind before I start the day. I try hard to be more present when with people, eating and experiencing other daily events. How busy are you throughout the day? Are you watching the telly, whilst talking and eating your dinner? We can all be so guilty of multi-tasking and not being present and quiet in the moment. Mindfulness is growing in the Corporate world and in general. There is good reason for that!

8. Find time for your hobbies

In August, I spent 4 days in a field with my best mate Phil, watching bands at the Reading Festival. On October 29th, I am out gigging with my band The Underdogs in Melton. Don’t let your life be completely tied up with work and family life. What else makes your heart sing? Have you neglected your favourite hobbies and pastimes? Time to bring this back into focus perhaps.

9. Have things to look forward to

I recommend to my clients to have a break or holiday that they can look forward to every 3-4 months. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but we are more able to sustain the motivation if we know a break is coming and there is something we’re excited about. We are also hugely productive in the last few days as we endeavour to close down tasks! If you don’t have anything to look forward to for over 4 months, plan something in.

10. It’s good to reflect

At the end of the day I capture 5 positive things about the day. Sometimes I journal in more detail. Every few months I reflect on the year so far. The good that has happened and the things that I can learn from. I also wrote in a blog recently about the importance of celebration. This reflection should go hand in hand with celebration. Are you moving from one target or goal to another with no recognition of what’s been achieved?


I hope these initial ideas are helpful. In part 2 of the blog article, we will look at 10 more ways to keep you on top of your game.

If you feel you need help and support in developing your own self leadership and wellbeing, it would be great to talk.

Feel free to give me a call on 0115 903 3133 or email me at tony@theleadershiptrainingworkshop.com and we can discuss how to help you in any way.