Tips For Reducing Stress
Whilst a little stress can be a good thing – it can motivate us to do better – there are times when it can become too much and can impact on daily life, mental health, and emotional wellbeing. April marks stress awareness month here in the UK, so we thought we’d recognise the importance of stress management by providing you with practical tips for reducing stress.
What Does Stress Feel Like?
Most of us will feel stressed at some point in our lives, but that feeling isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. It can not only feel different to every individual, but also show in different ways.
Dr Rafael Euba, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre explains: “Some of the most common signs of stress include constantly feeling worried, overwhelmed and/or anxious, having trouble focussing, having mood swings, having a low sex drive, feeling irritable, feeling depressed, eating differently and experiencing muscle tension. These are just some of the ways it can manifest itself. Whilst it’s normal to have a few days or even a few weeks where you feel stressed, when it persists for a long time, it can start to have an influence on your daily life. When our body experiences stress it produces adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones. Our bodies are only designed to feel stress for a short period of time (historically this would be to run away from or fight), but elevated levels of the stress hormones for a prolonged period of time can impact your wellbeing.”
It’s important to acknowledge if you are feeling stressed. Once you’re aware of it, the next step is to try and identify what the cause(s) may be and take action to try and reduce the stressor. If you’re unsure, try keeping a diary; write down when you feel stressed and rate your stress level out of 10. This gives you a chance to look back on the last few weeks and can be a useful tool for not only helping you ascertain the root(s) of the stress, but for giving you some perspective.
Tips for reducing stress
Accept that some things are out of your control. For example, if something is happening that you don’t have any control over, like your employer making you redundant, try to place your focus on an aspect of it that you can control, like applying for other jobs. This can help you to feel like you’re taking control of the situation which can in turn help to lower stress levels.
Exercise regularly. When your body is stressed it is expecting some kind of physical activity. Doing something active, whether that’s going for a run, to the gym or for a brisk walk, can be an effective stress management technique – and that’s been scientifically proven! As an added bonus, it can also help you to sleep better (just avoid anything too intense late at night as this may have the opposite effect!).
Take steps to improve your sleep. It can be difficult to get good quality rest when you’re feeling stressed, but there are steps you can take to increase your chance of having a restful night’s sleep. Are you doing something relaxing in the run up to bed? Watching TV may feel relaxing but the bright light can actually trigger the brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Can you read a book instead? Could you get black out blinds to make your bedroom darker? How about treating yourself to a new pillow or candle to help you relax? Meditative breathing and mindfulness exercises can be really useful for unwinding.
Talk. Whether it’s to a friend, family member, or a professional, talking to someone can help to reduce stress levels. Even writing things down in a diary or journal can be cathartic and useful for working through your thoughts. And remember, there doesn’t necessarily need to be anything ‘wrong’ or for you to have a mental illness in order to benefit from seeing a professional. Many find it much easier to talk to someone who is 100% impartial about their work, life events, challenges and relationships.
Take charge. If you’re feeling stressed, doing nothing will only help to make things worse. Feeling in control can help lower stress. The answer? Plan, plan plan! Try to take steps to actively reduce your load. Make a list of everything you have to do and order the tasks in terms of priority. What urgently needs doing? Is there anything you don’t really have to do that you can cross off? Can you delegate any responsibilities? What can be delayed? Do the first thing on your list – focus on completing just that single task. And then move on to the next. Ensure you plan something fun or enjoyable every day, even if that’s just taking time out to have a bath. Does watching the news make you feel stressed? Switch it off. Does going shopping make you tense? Try online shopping.
Learn to say no. With people to see, chores to do and errands to run, it’s easy to over-commit. Unfortunately, this can be a deep source of anxiety and stress for many. You can reduce stress by saying no to things that aren’t essential. This can be difficult at first but it’s important to know where your own limits are. It’s about learning to prioritise your own wellbeing. Because if you’re not ok, how can you look after others?
Try to take a positive outlook. Try to spin that negative thought around on its head and take the half glass full approach. For example, when you think ‘I’m not able to do this” pause, take a moment and readjust to “I’ll do the best I can”. It can be helpful to write down each day something you’re grateful for.
Remember that if you feel like it’s all getting a bit much, there is always help available. Whether you’re experiencing signs of stress, depression or anxiety, we can help you get back on track and feeling well again.