Stress is something I have always been aware of but never fully understood. It can either subconsciously affect you or completely consume every aspect of your life. Stress is relative – this is an important factor you have to understand in the process of handling stress. What could create negative stress for you like hosting an elaborate dinner party, planning a family holiday, dihydrocodeine driving or flying a long distance may not even cause a blip on another person’s stress radar. That’s why its so important to figure out what your stress triggers are and how you can stop them.
Where to Begin
One of the first steps in handling stress is figuring where your source of the stress is coming from and why it is creating stress in your life. Begin by taking note of when you feel your stress levels rising. You need to ask yourself questions like ‘why does this make me feel stressed?’ and ‘how can I prevent this from making me feel this way?’. Once you have acknowledged that you are stressed, the next step is to figure out why it makes you feel the way you do.
For example, why does having 60 unread emails cause your stress levels to rise? For me, stress arises when I feel like I don’t have enough time on my hands, pressures like deadlines, being late for something, as well as the fear of under performing, feeling like I’m incapable and disappointing people I care about creates stress in my life. Unfortunately, we cannot always prevent stress but we can control how we respond. So knowing what makes you feel calmer and more in control is really important and helpful.
Mind Over Matter
We often forget about the power of mental strength and the way in which you can improve your life by getting your head right.
In other words, accept that you cannot be on top of everything all the time and that mistakes do happen, often. Most things are out of our control and are never as bad we visualize them being– so why stress about it?
I am either really on top of my game and know exactly what’s going on, or I spend 15 minutes finding my car keys in the morning. Find what organisational method works for you and use it. By having your life in order you can avoid day-to-day stressful situations. There’s no need for a colour-coded wardrobe or alphabetically arranged bookshelf, but packing your bag or laying your clothes out the night before can really help. Find small things to do throughout the day that makes you feel more relaxed. Something like making a realistic to-do list, listen to your favourtie de-stress song, or practice deep-breathing exercises (maybe not in public). I am a huge fan of the realistic to-do list, it’s a simple, easy way of getting on top of everything and avoiding the ever-rising stress levels and ticking these tasks off is quite liberating. It is really important to make the tasks on the to-do list doable. Rather put something on the list that you know you can easily get done as opposed to a large task that might not be achievable in one day.
Most people underestimate the importance of sleep. When you are leading a stressful lifestyle – sleep has to be a priority, no matter what. When something is making you feel stressed, it puts your body under strain. Therefore, it is really important to let your body recover and recuperate. Instead of jam-packing your weekend with activities, take time to rest and actually just do nothing. If you are having trouble sleeping, try writing down all the things that are on your mind before you try to sleep as this will assist your brain in shutting down.
I’ve never been that person who falls asleep within 30 seconds of your head hitting the pillow. My brain tends to work over-time at night, trying to solve the problems of the world. That’s why having a pen and paper next to my bed is a must. After writing down what is on my mind, I find it a lot easier to fall asleep. Something else I find is effective in preparing your mind and body for sleep is reading (granted whatever you are reading shouldn’t evoke too much brain activity). Before falling asleep, think of things that you are grateful for in your life. This will create positive energy and steer your mind away from negative thoughts that get your mind racing.
Find Your Inner-Athlete
One of the most popular and effective stress-busters is exercise. Doesn’t matter if you’re not a born-athlete, or really hate the gym – nowadays there are so many different ways of keeping fit and it is definitely one of the best and healthiest ways to combat your stress.
I really don’t like the gym, I never arrive there feeling motivated and ready to workout. There’s also the inadequate feeling that creeps up on you when you struggling through your 5th sit-up and the person next to you is on their 96th. There are many alternatives to the gym, like Yoga, dance classes, all sorts of team sports and heaven forbid I left CrossFit off the list. Commit to dedicating 30 minutes per day for exercise. Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercising just 30 minutes per day for five days will meet this guideline. A 30-minute workout isn’t difficult to include in most schedules; try fitting your workout in before work, during your lunch break or in the evening. Doing 30 minutes of cardio exercise daily contributes heavily to your overall health. Benefits of this type of workout include boosting your cardiovascular endurance, regulating your cholesterol, improving your heart health, lowering your blood pressure and burning calories to help you maintain your weight or shed a few pounds. Cardio workouts also have emotional well-being benefits. As you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can rapidly improve your mood and ease your stress.Experiment and find out what works for you. It’s also good to have a routine and a commitment as it makes it more likely that you will go and get the most out of it.
Become a Social Butterfly
When feeling overwhelmed and stressed, people tend to become anti-social and choose to be alone, rather than socialize. Granted at times some ‘me’ time is necessary but being around people, laughing and forgetting about the stresses of life is so important. Socialization is the process whereby the individual acquires the conventional patterns of human behaviour. Ray Oldenberg came up with the ‘Third Place’ concept. This involves extending your socializing to out of your home of family and place of work. So your First Place is your home and your Second Place is your office. At both of these places you have assigned roles and tasks that have to be completed and both places are generally within your comfort zone. Your Third Place is where you meet new people, exchange ideas, learn about other people, enrich society and learn a lot about yourself.
We can’t take life too seriously otherwise we will end up finding stress and worries in most situations. Surround yourself with supportive, like-minded people who make you feel better about yourself. Often what you choose to do doesn’t really matter, it’s who you choose to do it with. I’ll often ask one of my friends to come with me to do a grocery shop (something I really hate doing) which may seem silly, but it’s an easy way to touch base with someone, especially if you don’t enjoy shopping and doing a laborious task like that can often add stress into your life, having a friend around just makes it that much better and not seem like such a chore. Being sociable is particularly important if you don’t work or study with friends or people who you find it easy get along with.
Engineer Your Eating
In times of stress, it seems that people will either over-eat or not eat at all. After a long stressful day all I feel like is a slab of chocolate and a glass of wine – but is that really the best option to de-stress? It is of vital importance to provide your body with the necessary energy it needs to keep everything functioning normally. That’s why, picking up your favourite treat, in hope that it’ll combat the stress you’re feeing, often doesn’t work and can often contribute to making you feel worse.
Avocados are one of the tastiest and healthiest fruits around. According to Medical Daily, avocados are recommended for a healthy stress-free diet that are full of nutrients potassium, Omega-3, fatty acids as well as Vitamins A, K, D and E. Garlic has many benefits such as lowering your blood pressure and boosting your immunity which are really important when you feeling like stress is taking over. When looking at ‘Health.com’, they put forward leafy greens as the most important de-stress food. Some of the reasons being, vegetables like spinach, as this contain folate which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, which helps keeping you calm. Including more fruit and vegetables in your diet contribute to being the happiest, healthiest version of yourself.
Healthy snacks are also a key element for keeping your stress levels at a minimum. Health.com recommends snacks such as yoghurt as being effective in reducing stress, as bacteria in your gut may be contributing to your state of mind. Blueberries are an easy on-the-go snack that are full of antioxidants. Research has also shown that blueberry eaters experience a boost in natural killer cells, “a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity critical for countering stress,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor.
Another de-stress snack that I was delighted to stumble upon was dark chocolate. Bear in mind that the recommended amount is only a square or two and it should be 70% cocoa or higher but according to the same website (Health.com) it can reduce your stress hormones including cortisol. Dark chocolate contains unique natural substances that create a sense of euphoria similar to the feeling of being in love. I didn’t need more reasons to like chocolate but there they are.
The best way to kick the binge on bad foods, particularly when feeling overwhelmed is to pack healthy snacks like fruit, nuts and yoghurt based foods for work or University, this should stop the temptation and should assist in the stress reduction.
We all have a happy place. It’s wherever you feel at peace with yourself and surrounds and you can escape the ‘real’ world. It might be a walk on your favourite beach or lying in a bed reading a novel. It’s all about taking time out of your day or even week to do exactly what you want and let your brain and body switch off for a while.
Linked to your happy place, is doing things that bring you joy and make you feel good. Whether it’s spending the whole day by yourself, watching back to back episodes of series with friends, or spending quality time with your children or loved ones. What ever it may be, make sure it is making you feel as happy as possible – no matter how selfish it is.
As old fashioned as it may sound I love to go on long walks with friends, whether there is silence the whole way, or if there’s constant chatter, I find it is one of the most therapeutic activities and I always feel more at ease afterwards. It’s great if you have the opportunity to go somewhere scenic, then you really have the opportunity to absorb all that you can from the beauty of nature and your natural surroundings. That’s one of my reasons for preferring a brisk walk to a run, if you running passed everything when do you get the time to take it all in? Whatever you choose to do, it should make you feel good eradicate any stress that might be bugging you.
From this list of 6 de-stress tips, there should be at least one de-stress tip that resonates with you and makes your load feel a little lighter. It’s all about taking each day as it comes, and handling issues as they arrive, instead of worrying about potential problems that may not even happen. So from now onwards, if you are feeling your stress levels rising, plan your day step-by-step. Don’t think about what’s happening next week or even tomorrow. Focus on today and what you can make of it.
We spend so much time worrying about things we cannot and never will be able to control. Make sure you are as organized as possible – I know this doesn’t come naturally to everyone,. These are really simple solutions that can make such a difference. If you follow these tips, you’ll find that the benefits will filter through into all aspects of your life. it should make stress not seem like such a scary, unavoidable element, but rather something you can acknowledge and conquer.