• Hayley Snelling

Six Tips for Managing Stress: What is stress and how can you manage it?

One in 5 people take a sick day from work because of stress, but 90% of those people put the sickness reason as something else*.

Have you ever felt like you may have stress, but aren't really sure what it is? Or maybe you know you get stressed and would like to find some ways to manage a bit better? I’m going to share with you a little bit about what stress is, some of the tell-tale signs of stress, and some tips to help you to manage your stress.

What is stress?

Now I don’t see stress as necessarily a mental health problem in itself. It is part of our survival response, the fight or flight reaction.

Many, many, many years ago, when our lives were in danger (from being chased by a lion, for example), a part of our brain called the amygdala kicked in to help us gear up for fighting or running away from a threat. Nowadays, we usually have fewer lions to run away from, but our brain still responds to anything it sees as a threat, danger or stressor in that same way, whether it’s a big or small stress trigger.

Stress isn’t all bad, it can give you a burst of much-needed energy, making you more alert and motivated to get things done.

Have you ever had that deadline looming, and you haven’t done the work for it even though it’s been coming for months, and then under that last-moment pressure you’ve managed to get it done with just minutes to spare? Yep, that’s stress working positively for you! Giving you that energy, focus, and motivation to get the job done.

Signs of stress

The worse side of stress comes when we experience it frequently, we can find other problems appearing, such as exhaustion, increased risk of physical health problems, sleep issues, anxiety, depression, problems in relationships, work issues…the list goes on.

How do you know if you’re stressed? Some of the signs are below:

  • Feeling irritable

  • Feeling distracted

  • Mood swings

  • Tense muscles

  • Headaches

  • Sleep problems

  • Upset stomach

  • Fatigue

Tips to manage your stress

So, if you’re feeling stressed, here are six tips for stress-relief:

1. Exercise

Exercising regularly can help reduce the amount of cortisol in the body, which is a stress hormone. Exercise can also increase the amount of dopamine and endorphins in your body, which are some of the ‘happy’ hormones, so it’s a double win with this one! Whether it’s going for a brisk walk, having a swim, or putting on some music and having a dance in your living room, find something you enjoy and switch it up to keep it interesting.

2. Mindfulness

I’m sure a lot of you have heard of mindfulness or meditation, and some may think it doesn’t sound like something you’d do. It’s really about being present in the moment and aware of the thoughts you are having, what you can feel, what you can hear. I found it a struggle initially as my mind bounced all over the place and I was worried I was doing it wrong. But now that I’ve had time to practice, I’ve found it can help to calm my mind down. There are some great apps and audios online which can be found for free to give you an introduction, even just a couple of minutes to have a try. Youtube and Spotify have different audios on there, and apps such as Headspace or Calm often have a free trial.

3. Be mindful of your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine

These three are stimulants, which can increase your stress levels. I live on tea and the thought of giving it up just to reduce my caffeine seemed impossible, so instead, I switched to decaf or herbal tea after my lunch, and I have noticed a difference between how on edge I feel compared to being fully caffeinated all the time!

4. Talk it out

If you feel like things are getting on top of you, it can really help to speak to someone. Opening up about your problems and how you feel can lift some weight off of your shoulders, help you to get a new perspective, feel heard and understood, and help to reduce your stress.

5. Time management

If we have a lot of things to do, we can feel overwhelmed and stressed out about how we are going to fit everything into our day. Even though there are 24 hours, it would be great to have an extra few hours squeezed in there to help, right? If you feel like this, it may be helpful to look at how you use and manage your time. Making lists of the things to do and putting the most important ones at the top so that they get done first can help, being able to prioritise what really needs to be done instead of what we’d like to get done. Being able to accept that you can’t get through everything in the day alone, and planning on when to do it later or even asking someone for help if they’re around, can help relieve the stress of it all.

6. Have some ‘me’ time

Do something each day that you enjoy, even for 5 minutes. Whether that’s reading a book, having a bath, listening to music, or taking time to enjoy that cup of tea before it goes cold, you deserve it!

Hopefully, you now have some ideas for how you can manage your stress a little better and some things you can try.

If you’d like some help with managing your stress, please send me a message by clicking this link.

* https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/work-is-biggest-cause-of-stress-in-peoples-lives/

Anxiety therapist, Hove

©2020 by Hayley Snelling Counsellor.

England, United Kingdom

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