How To Manage Stress

The last 16 months have impacted us in multiple ways. Stress may have crept in quietly and eroded away our resilience or crashed in at times unannounced and knocked us off-kilter.

We all need a certain amount of stress in our daily lives to get us out of bed in the morning and into action and hold us accountable for our responsibilities.  However, if stress becomes unmanageable, we need to do something about it.

Signs of Stress

You may be experiencing a period of stress If you are suffering from:

  • sleep problems
  • headaches
  • palpitations
  • panic attacks 
  • constant worry
  • digestive problems

Some common causes of stress are:

  • financial troubles
  • inability to say no to others eg taking on too much work
  • relationship difficulties
  • family distress
  • death of a loved one
  • moving home

How Stress Affects the Body and Brain

When we are stressed the body’s impulse is to react in one of 3 ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Under stress, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus sends messages to the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones called cortisol.  Cortisol raises blood sugars and blood pressure so that we can face immediate danger or stress.  These reactions work well to protect us at times of crisis but it’s unhealthy to be in this state for a prolonged period.  Sustained stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and disease. So we really need to do all we can to limit living with prolonged stress.

How To Reduce Stress

Research has shown that talking about the situation to someone, being active, especially outside and regular meditation and relaxation can all help reduce stress.

It’s a good idea to get to know your stress triggers; the situations that are more likely to cause you stress. Think carefully about when you get stressed, is there a pattern. For example, if you’ve arranged a social get-together with friends or family on a Sunday evening, do you get stressed because you’re worried that you may not have enough time to get the family ready for work and school the next day?

Knowing that you tend to become stressed when something familiar happens is a good start to learning how to deal with stress. Once we are aware of a pattern, we can start to pre-empt it so that the situation doesn’t arise as often.  So, in the above example, we could decide not to arrange or attend any social gatherings on a Sunday after 5pm.

There are many ways to reduce stress. We are all different and respond to some experiences more than others but some of these may be helpful.

Here are Some Self-help Ways to Alleviate Stress

  • breathe deeply
  • do one thing a day for yourself to make you smile
  • meditate, use a Youtube video or podcast to help you focus
  • work out what may be worrying you and prioritise your list of things to do
  • share your worries with your partner, friend or therapist
  • spend some time outdoors: go for a walk, run or do some gardening
  • take up a new hobby or interest
  • do something creative: cook, paint, play a musical instrument, craft, diy
  • watch a funny movie or some live comedy
  • get some exercise
  • practice some yoga poses
  • have a relaxing bath with candles and music
  • book a massage or reflexology session
  • eat healthily and drink plenty of water
  • bury yourself in a novel

Once we have identified our stressors, we are able to take action, no matter how small, to reduce our stress.  Adding in some of the above ideas every day should lead to a calmer and more balanced lifestyle. 

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