Stress has a way of taking over our lives and what’s interesting about stress is that we don’t always realise we’re experiencing it until it becomes overwhelming. It can impact in so many ways, both physically and psychologically, such as with headaches, sleep difficulties, appetite, concentration, emotional/mental health issues, anger/anxiety outbursts, skin difficulties, aches & pains in joints and muscles, increased blood pressure, higher cholesterol, stomach cramps, nausea, diabetes, digestive issues such as IBS, reproductive issues and it can have an effect on the immune system. Given all the potential effects of stress and the impact on our bodies, it can be useful to really think about possible strategies to counter the stress reaction. Here are some different strategies you can put to use:
Take regular breaks and prioritise tasks so that things don’t seem too overwhelming;
Communication - Make contact with a friend or family member. Communication with others can be key when we’re feeling under pressure. The saying ‘it’s good to talk’ is so true! We can find that our worries can be dispelled when we speak to others. Even if we don’t want to share what’s on our minds, just having contact with others can make a real difference.
Hobbies – Spend some time developing your interests. Maybe there’s a a course you’ve been desperate to do or a good book you’d love to read. Make sure you make time for these things! When we’re stressed and becoming exhausted, the things we tend to do less of are those things that sustain us. So, do more of these things!
Music – we often make associations through music. How often do we hear a song and find that it carries us back to a previous time in our lives? We can use this type of association in a helpful way when we’re feeling under pressure by listening to a song that conjures up positive feel-good emotions.
Warm bath – water has many healing properties and research is showing more and more that contact with water can reduce stress levels;
Massage - Having a massage can release endorphins and can have a calming effect on the body, particularly useful for reducing aches and pains, but also wonderful as a relaxing strategy.
Exercise – We all know that exercise is good for us physically but it also has excellent psychological effects too;
Bedtime routine – One of the things that can be impacted upon when we’re stressed is our ability to get a good night’s sleep. So, decide on a bedtime routine that involves settling down in the evening, perhaps a bath before bed, a warm milky drink (but not too much as it may increase the likelihood of us getting up to the loo in the night), no blue lights in the bedroom and no device use (mobile phone, tablet) for 30-mins before bed. Create a sanctuary in the bedroom, somewhere pleasant to retreat to!
Gain professional support: If you’re really struggling, it may be worthwhile gaining professional support. There are a variety of ways of doing this, for example, a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course is an 8-week programme that can help alleviate stress, or a course of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also be very useful. Your GP may be able to refer you for this support or you can find a psychologist who works privately in your area. A great resource for finding someone suitable is: www.counselling-directory.org.uk
In the workplace:
Create a stress-free space for yourself and take a break whenever you can. Even 5 minutes away from the desk can make a difference. If, for whatever reason, it’s difficult to take time away, consider a brief meditation. The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) have come up with a 60 second tranquiliser idea which goes like this:
“The 60 Second Tranquilliser”
This is a quick and easy breathing technique to bring about rapid relief when needed. Using positive thoughts will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you to switch off your fight/flight reaction. It is the perfect solution to rapidly calm nerves, focus the mind and help you to think more clearly. You can use this simple and powerful exercise at any time when you feel worried, tense, nervous or anxious. The benefit of this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. This can be done either sitting down or standing up; you may close your eyes if it is safe to do so or if you prefer keep them open. ¨ Say firmly but silently to yourself – “TAKE CONTROL”. ¨ Repeat – “I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT TO” and breath out slowly. ¨ Slowly breathe in through your nose and then out through pursed lips, allowing the abdomen to soften and rise on the in breath then deflate and return to normal on the out breath. ¨ PAUSE ¨ Slowly repeat this for 6-8 breaths over the minute with the breath out being slightly longer than the breath in. ¨ Say to yourself each time – “I AM BREATHING IN PEACE & BLOWING AWAY TENSION”. ¨ Each time you breathe out, make sure you relax your face, jaw, shoulders and hands. ¨ If your symptoms persist, repeat this technique for 3-5 minutes until you feel calm and relaxed. ABDOMINAL BREATHING REVERSES AND HELPS CONTROL WORRY, TENSION, STRESS, ANXIETY AND PANIC. REMEMBER - IF YOU ARE RELAXED – YOU CAN’T BE TENSE!