Stress Awareness Month takes place every April and has since it first launched in 1992. Throughout this period of time, teams of experts aim to increase public awareness about stress.
Stress is often defined as a mismatch between the demands placed on us and our ability to cope with these demands. The way we cope with these demands will depend on the way we think, our personality and our previous life experiences. Stress can be positive when it motivates us to get things done, however, it can be negative when we feel constantly pressurised by too many demands.
We have developed some tips around specific areas and ways you can deal with stress:
Stress and Wellbeing
Unplug for a while
Occasionally give yourself the time to unplug. You do not have to be connected 24/7, and there is no need to tune into the online chatter all of the time. When you're not glued to social media waiting for the latest status, or living in a state of stress while dreading the next email to arrive, it can make a real difference to your stress levels. Turn your phone off on your commute home, go for a walk without your mobile, call in on a friend and have a chat one to one.
Good food and regular meals provide the energy you need to deal effectively with stress.
We all know that staying active is good for us. You don’t have to run a marathon or join a high tech gym - cardio vascular activity such as taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes three days a week may not only reduce stress levels but also reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Good sleep is essential for our bodies and minds to recover, but can be the first thing to go when we are feeling stressed. Poor sleep can lead to tiredness and fatigue, leaving us feeling even more stressed.
Do Something Fun
Taking a break from your hectic life, even a short one, can help to prevent stress from building up and provide some breathing space to recharge your batteries. Making time to relax and have some fun is an important way of beating stress.
Meditation and deep relaxation
Learning how to clear our mind takes practice but it’s a great way to relax, refresh and recover from the stresses and strains of daily life. Experiment until you find a technique that works for you and then build it into your daily routine.
Stress and Modern Living
An ever changing and a modern world can be a positive force in our lives but it can also be disconcerting for people who are experiencing a great deal of stress in school, the workplace or in their personal lives.
The digital world, insecure employment prospects, exam/job stress, a fast paced environment and alcohol/substance misuse are some of the issues making the modern world, so challenging for many.
Take your time
In our busy lives it can be hard to stop. There are various techniques we can use to help us relax and take a minute. We may already know what works for us, listening to music or watching a film, have a nice warm bath or practising mindfulness to become more aware of ourselves. It is important that you take the time to pause and take your time. Mindfulness improves your concentration and mental clarity, improve working memory, increase self-control, and enhance kindness and compassion towards others.
Ask for help
Talking with friends and loved ones about your problems can help relieve stress, this can really make a difference to your overall mental health. You might not have all the answers right now but asking for help can ease your situation and be the start to de-stressing your life. You can find helpful resources on the Change Your Mind and Minding Your Head website.
Stress and Diet
Between work, family and other obligations, stress is a common part of life. But while it's something we all deal with from time to time, stress can have a negative impact on your health. Worry and overwork can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, which causes more stress, leading to a very harmful cycle.
Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellbeing. Too much stress is bad for you but there are many strategies, and one of them includes what you eat and how you look after your wellbeing.
Limit the amount of caffeine you drink daily
Some of us reach for the coffee pot when we have deadlines to meet or our workload is too much to handle. Alternatively have a hot cup of water with lemon and take a deep breath. Lemon water is a great substitute to coffee, as it rehydrates the body, waking up your system and making you feel hydrated and energized.
Eat the right foods
Oranges are top of our list of wellbeing foods for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. Foods can help tame stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Therefore a healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress.
Drink plenty of water
With our busy lives, it is easy to forget to drink water. Dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels—the stress hormone—making it harder to deal with everyday issues. By staying hydrated you will be better equipped to deal with everyday problems
Make home cooked meals
The modern world has made it easy for people to order food with a click of a button or drive through a fast food place. Take the time to plan a meal, switch off and spend time in the kitchen creating yourself a healthy meal. Sit down, be mindful and enjoy the moment of tasting a dinner you have cooked.
Stress and Workplace
Workplace stress can often be the result of a number of factors, including: high demands of the job, real or perceived lack of control concerning those demands, poor day-to-day organisation and communication, or an unsupportive work environment. We don’t need to make huge changes or rethink career ambitions, but a few small steps as well as maintaining a healthy work/life balance can help to take care of ourselves and support our wellbeing at work. Here are a few tips.
There are several things we can do to help. Are you often the last to leave work? Try to make this the exception and not the norm – it will quickly take its toll on your concentration, productiveness and health. It may also interfere with your social life and relationships.
Creating clear boundaries between work and home
On the commute home, try reading a book or listen to music – these little actions can help you to unwind and ‘switch off’. Try not to let work spill over into your personal life, and always make sure you have some time to relax prior to going to bed. Relaxing activities can help us to ‘chill out’, especially before bedtime so that we’re not carrying that stress with us into our sleep.
Manage your time and workload
Identify your ‘best time of day’ and do the important tasks that require the most energy and concentration at that time. Make a ‘To-Do’ list, varying your tasks in the day between less and more interesting ones, and tiring jobs with less tiring ones. Try not to do too many things at once. Prioritise your work and if things are getting on top of you, remember to ask for help – this could be your line manager, a colleague and/or HR if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or isolated.
Act positively and stay active
Take regular breaks during the day. Have a change of scene - a short walk can make a big difference to how you feel, even if it’s a simple walk round the office or maybe have a healthy snack. At the end of each day, sit back and reflect on what you've achieved, rather than spending time worrying about what still needs to be done. Whether in or outside of work, exercise can help manage the physical signs of stress – invite friends or colleagues to join in for a shared wellbeing experience!
Connect with and make time for friends and family both in and out of work. Talking to them about your day and how you're feeling can help to put things in perspective.
These tips can help you improve your health and wellbeing and build techniques to help you with your resilience to stress.
Remember: If you are concerned about your own wellbeing or someone else’s contact a GP or an appropriate medical professional.