I’m a self-confessed stress-head but it’s something I am trying to work on and there’s no time like the present as April is Stress Awareness Month.
Stress Awareness Month takes place every April since it first launched in 1992.
Most of us will experience stress at some point in our lives, but constant or extreme stress is bad for both your mind and body.
Reducing stress is important because if left unchecked it can be deadly — in fact, stress is often referred to as the “silent killer” because although its effects are not always immediately apparent, it can lead to a number of serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.
How you may feel emotionally
- irritable and “wound up”
- anxious or fearful
- lacking in self-esteem
How you may feel mentally
- racing thoughts
- constant worrying
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty making decisions
How you may feel physically
- muscle tension or pain
- sleep problems
- feeling tired all the time
- eating too much or too little
How you may behave
- drinking or smoking more
- snapping at people
- avoiding things or people you are having problems with
What causes stress?
Big life changes often create stress, even happy events like having a baby, moving house or planning a wedding.
Feeling like you aren’t in control of events in your life – for example, if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness or you get made redundant – can also cause stress.
Stress may be related to:
- work – for example, unemployment, a high workload or retirement
- family – for example, relationship difficulties or being a carer
- housing – for example, moving house or problems with neighbours
- personal issues – for example, coping with a serious illness, bereavement or financial problems
It’s important to tackle the causes of stress in your life if you can. Avoiding problems rather than facing them can actually make things worse.
But it’s not always possible to change a stressful situation. You may need to accept there’s nothing you can do about it and refocus your energies elsewhere.
How can you de-stress?
Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly. Exercising also releases endorphins which make you feel happier.
There’s usually a solution to any problem. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
For tools to keep track of your time see this previous post.
Connect with people
A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
Talking things through with a friend can also help you find solutions to your problems – a problem shared is a problem halved.
Have some ‘me time’
Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy.
I think we all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise and setting aside a couple of hours or even nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work too.
I feel like I’m back on track thanks to self-care time.
Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether personal or professional, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
By continuing to learn you can become more resilient to deal with your emotions and it’s much better than just watching TV or scrolling through social media.
Avoid unhealthy habits
Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping.
Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones.
For tips to quit smoking see this earlier post
For tips to help take days off the booze see this post packed full of useful info.
Help other people
Consider volunteering or community work to help other people which in turn will help you to become more resilient.
It can also help you to put your problems into perspective too.
If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.
How about becoming a Dementia Friend? You can find out how in this post.
Work smarter, not harder
Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference.
Leave the least important tasks to last and accept that you might not complete every task at the end of the day.
Perhaps writing a to do list and ticking the items off will work for you too.
Try to be positive
Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful.
Try writing down a few things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day.
Every Friday Lauren from Milly’s Guide shares a practicing gratitude post; listing the five things she’s grateful for that week and I love it! I read it every week and comment with my five things I’m grateful for. It helps put things into perspective for me and makes me feel really positive. Here’s one of her earlier gratitude posts here.
Accept the things you can’t change
Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over instead.
And remember that change doesn’t have to happen over night.
For example, if you want to lose weight start by cutting down your portions and doing more exercise and set yourself small and achievable goals.
You could also:
- try NHS Choice’s 10 simple stress busters
- try mindfulness – studies have found mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve your mood
- use calming breathing exercises
- download some relaxation and mindfulness apps on to your phone
- listen to an anxiety control audio guide
- take a break or holiday
- take some regular exercise and make sure you’re eating healthily
- make sure you’re getting enough sleep
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Voting is open until midnight on April 30th.
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What are the best ways for you to de-stress? Have you got any tips to share?
Let me know in the comments below.
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