Today, the 4th November is International Stress Awareness Day. It was established by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) to help provide information on stress and how to manage.
Stress is a common and universal experience, but how we experience stress and how we handle it varies from individual to individual.
Some people manage stress through unhealthy behaviours such as eating or drinking too much. Others smoke more, and others spend hours on social media or shopping excessively as a form of escape. Others will leave work late to avoid the stressors at home, and some people gamble to escape what they are experiencing.
Learning to handle stress in healthy ways is possible and essential for good health and wellbeing
What works for one person however, may not work for another, so it’s important to find strategies that work for you. These 3 tips can help:
1. Identify what is causing you stress and take some constructive action
Identify what is causing you stress – is it a looming deadline? Are you running late to an appointment? Are your children misbehaving?
Identify the cause, focus on possible solutions, and take action.
Put the chosen solution into practice, and evaluate its helpfulness. Is it working? If not, try something different.
Notice your ‘self-talk’ – is it positive (“I can cope”) or negative (“I can’t cope”; “this is too hard”; “it’s not fair”)?
Reframe your thoughts into more positive ones; this will help bring clarity when seeking appropriate solutions. A great way to ‘coach’ yourself down from a high stress point is to ask yourself a couple of reflective questions, such as:
- How important will this be in 6 months’ time?
- Is my approach appropriate and effective?
- What can I learn from the situation?
- What can I do differently next time?
Reflecting on each of these questions can help not only bring perspective to the situation, but also gives you the opportunity to learn from the experience and to put some effective stress management strategies in place for next time.
2. Do some physical activity
Exercise and other forms of physical activity produce feel good chemicals, which improve our mood and overall wellbeing.
For even the most inactive, a short walk or playing with your dog outside is achievable! Moving the body helps clear the mind and helps bring clarity to the situation – it can help you manage stress in a much more constructive and positive way.
Even a small workout of low intensity can leave you feeling energised, less stressed, less anxious, less depressed, and much more in control.
Of course, there are also many other proven benefits of regular physical activity, including lowering your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as keeping your weight in check.
3. Practice relaxation
When you’re feeling stressed, give yourself permission to take a break and practice some deep breathing, meditation or mindfulness.
Spending just a few minutes deep breathing can lower the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
Deep breathing also triggers the body to produce endorphins leaving us feeling happier and calmer in just a few minutes.
Being mindful allows you to focus on the present moment without judgement. By becoming aware of your current thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, you are able to accept your experience and move forward from a place of clarity and calmness. However, like any skill, this takes practice.
Take some action today to reduce your stress
Every positive decision you make is a step in the right direction. Aim to do this daily and your stress will be reduced and your overall health and wellbeing will improve.
And remember, if you’re struggling, or are experiencing high and ongoing levels of stress, seek professional help as soon as you can.