We all feel stress at one time or another. A small amount of stress can be a good thing and increase energy and motivation. But if the stress becomes greater than our ability to cope, it can affect quality of life and cause problems with physical and mental health and can affect our relationships. Everyone encounters stressful situations at times, and there are several different ways to deal with stress. Here are just 8 tips to keep stress at bay:
1. Exercise - Regular moderate exercise has been shown to regulate stress and make us more resistant to it, so when you're feeling stressed, walk your dog or go for a run in the fresh air. You will be amazed how much better you will feel!
2. Enjoy group activities - People who participate in sport or leisure activities with other people, have lower cortisol levels and lower blood pressure so join a club or get friends together to exercise and get social
3. Choose your reaction - We all have a choice whether we let stress consume us or focus on the positive - the latter is best for our health and sanity
4. Relax wisely - Instead of spacing out in front of the TV or getting back into work on your laptop as soon as you get home or finish dinner, try doing yoga, going for a walk, having a bath, calling a friend or put some happy music on and dance around your living room
5. Sleep - Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night and if you can't try to get a 10 minute nap in the day to recharge
6. Breathe - In times of stress we tend to breathe shallow so take deep breaths and focus on your breathing for a few minutes then go back to what you were doing
7. Worry...but only for 10 minutes - Set yourself a timer to let yourself worry and go through every possible outcome of a situation and when the timer goes off, let it go and visualise the positive
8. Put things into perspective - Sometimes the things we stress over the most won't matter in even a day, a month or a year so think about the big picture and turn those mountains back into molehills
If you find that you are not coping with managing your stress and notice affects of stress such as grinding your teeth, more headaches or pain in your body and being short tempered, sometimes a counsellor or psychologist may be the best help to talk about what is making you stressed and learn more mindfulness practices to help you cope better.
The Australian Psychological Society recommends trying these helpful tips too....
Know your triggers - There are often known triggers which raise our stress levels and make it more difficult for us to manage. If you know what the likely triggers are, you can aim to anticipate them and practise calming yourself down beforehand, or even find ways of removing the trigger. Triggers might include late nights, deadlines, seeing particular people, hunger or over-tired children.
Establish routines - Having predictable rhythms and routines in your day, or over a week, such as regular times for exercise and relaxation, meal times, waking and bedtimes, can be very calming and reassuring, and can help you to manage your stress.
Look after your health - Make sure you are eating healthy food and getting regular exercise. Take time to do activities you find calming or uplifting, such as listening to music, walking or dancing. Avoid using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope.
Notice your ‘self-talk' - When we are stressed we sometimes say things in our head, over and over, that just add to our stress. This unhelpful self-talk might include things like: ‘I can't cope', or ‘I'm too busy', or ‘I'm so tired', or ‘It's not fair'. Try more helpful self-talk like ‘I'm coping well given what's on my plate', or ‘Calm down', or ‘Breathe easy'.
Spend time with people who care - Spending time with people you care about, and who care about you, is an important part of managing ongoing stress in your life. Share your thoughts and feelings with others when opportunities arise. Don't ‘bottle up' your feelings.
Practise relaxation - Make time to practise relaxation. This will help your body and nervous system to settle and readjust. Consider learning a formal relaxation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or yoga; or make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity such as gardening or listening to music.