6 Powerful Strategies For Stress Management

In 2018, a UK study revealed that 74% of participants had felt so stressed in the year prior to the study, that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

In July 2021, a survey by CIPHR revealed that an overwhelming majority of British adults (79%) feel stressed at least once a month.

Two years after the COVID-19 global pandemic, inflation, money issues and the current energy crisis in the UK will no doubt create yet more stress for many.

Stress is a normal part of our lives

Stress is normal and often cannot be totally avoided. In fact, in some cases, stress can even have some positive effects. Research suggests that a small amount of stress for a short time can strengthen the immune system, enhance memory and learning, improve decision-making skills or boost job performance while increasing alertness.

But sadly, stress takes a far greater part in our lives than it should.

If kept unmanaged, the effect of too much stress can lead to physical ailments as well as emotional ill-health such as on-going anxiety or depression.

What causes stress?

Many things can cause stress in different areas of our lives. You might feel stressed because of one big event or situation in your life. Or it might be a build-up of lots of smaller things.

The main causes of stress include personal, relationship and work-related/studying stress.

Causes of stress

Personal stress may include:

  • Illness or injury
  • Parenting (and juggling between work and parenting)
  • Bereavement
  • Experiencing abuse or being a victim of crime
  • Organising a complicated event, like a holiday or even a happy event like a wedding
  • Everyday tasks, such as household chores or taking transport
  • Moving house
  • Money issues such as difficult pay bills etc.

Relationships stress may include

  • Getting married or civil partnered
  • Going through a break-up or getting divorced
  • Difficult relationships with family members, friends, neighbours or colleagues at work

Work-related stress may be caused by

  • Unrealistic workload
  • Deadlines
  • Losing your job or starting a new job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Retiring

And much more.

Is your cup overflowing?

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We all have the capacity to deal with a certain amount of stress but when does stress become too much?

Imagine grabbing a cup and filling it with water to about 20% of its capacity. Now imagine walking around holding that cup everywhere you go.

Chances are you will be able to walk about and keep the contents in without much difficulty. The water may swirl around in the cup but it is unlikely it would spill over and you might not even think too much about it.

Now imagine, filling it to 80% of its capacity and do the same. What happens then?

Most likely you will experience the following:

  • You may have spilled some and notice yourself becoming annoyed or angry or anxious or frustrated
  • You may not have spilled anything but you felt the tension of trying not to spill the water and did not enjoy the experience
  • You did not care if it spilled but there is now water everywhere.

“Whilst stress is normal, the key is to be able to recognize the symptoms of too-much stress”

Our mind and body are like this cup and the water represents negative emotions or stresses we may experience in life. The key is to always have space at the top of your cup to allow a buffer for any new stresses that life may throw your way and to address those consistent stresses as soon as possible to avoid reaching breaking point.

If you often find yourself experiencing bursts of anger or frustration or impatience in situations when you would normally be able to react with more discernment, your cup is getting close to the brim.

It is time to rest and recharge before it overflows and symptoms of stress fully settle in.

Symptoms of stress

Typical signs that stress levels are too high include:

  • Feeling irritable.
  • Crying spells or bursts of anger.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Procrastinating.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Difficulty eating or eating too much.
  • Losing interest in daily activities.
  • Increasing physical distress symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains, chest pains or rapid heartbeat.
  • Agitation, inability to relax.
  • Avoiding family and friends.

Stress management strategies

Relaxing is important for stress management

Strategy number 1 - Exercise

That’s right exercise. Exercise is so important to both our physical and mental wellbeing. And many of my clients who already exercise on a regular basis tell me how important it is for their overall wellbeing, and how much they feel the impact when they have not been exercise as regularly as they would normally do.

The thing is, when talking about exercise, some people imagine that it must be something going to the gym, or taking up running or cycling. If you like this, great! But there are so many other ways to BE MORE ACTIVE.

The key thing is to find something you really enjoy! Because otherwise you won’t keep it up.

So whether it is dancing, swimming, or something else, take time to make space for exercise. And maybe for some of you it will be as simple as going for a 20/30 minutes walk daily.

Strategy number 2 – Make space for relaxation

You will have heard this so many times and it makes sense, right?

But so many of my clients when asked, realize that they very seldom purposely set time aside for winding down and relaxation.

And for those of us who are always busy, it might even feel strange, almost like feeling guilty not to be doing something…and just BEING instead of DOING.

And yet it is so essential to slow down and take a break.

So whether is it sitting in the sun listening to the birds and the sounds of nature, putting on your favourite relaxing music, reading, practising mindfulness meditation, doing a puzzle or having a bath, make a note to set at least 20 minutes aside everyday, just for YOU.

Strategy number 3 – Increase joy and laughter in your life

Yes, stress management methods don’t all have to be structured or clinical.

Letting loose and having fun with your family, friends or people who make you feel good, is a great way to relieve stress and experience relaxation.

Make time for socialising and catching up with friends, think of watching comedies more often maybe or play light hearted games with your friends, or children perhaps…We all need play time whatever our age…

Strategy number 4 – Reduce stimulants and choose nutritional foods

Some people when stressed fall into a habit of overeating or choosing less healthy food options, other may develop coping strategies such as smoking or drinking more alcohol.

Unfortunately, none of these really help and often make it worse.

To keep stress at bay it is important to reduce stimulants such as caffeine, refined sugars, alcohol and tobacco and choose nutritional foods.

As with everything, awareness is key! Notice what your coping mechanisms are and then find a way to make a positive change.

You don’t have to do it all at the same time. What could you start with? Perhaps you could introduce so easy swaps: glass of water instead of soda? Herbal hot drink instead of coffee or tea? A piece of fruit instead of a biscuit?

Strategy number 5 – Sleep

Anyone who has ever experienced difficulties sleeping would know how important a good night’s sleep is for our health and our ability to cope with life demands and challenges.

In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.

It is the time when you recharge your batteries and it really deserves some caring attention.

Yet we don’t always prioritize sleep and can develop unhealthy sleeping patterns which affect our moods, our hormones, our immune system, our risk of heart disease and stroke, and much more.

So if you are experiencing stress and anxiety, make sure you take care of your sleep before it turns into insomnia, which can be more challenging to resolve.

To improve your sleep, review your sleep hygiene and create a “wind-down routine” that works for you. This may include:

  • Having a bath or listening to some relaxing music to help you relax before bed
  • Spending a few minutes planning ahead the next day, whether that is getting your clothes ready for the morning or writing down the important things to be done on your to-do list (keep it short to avoid feeling overwhelmed)
  • Setting priorities for the next day
  • Taking a moment to acknowledge the good things that happened during the day

Strategy number 6 – Write Down The Good Stuff - The Power Of Appreciation

It can help to write down the good things that happen to you. It can be things you’ve enjoyed doing, nice things people have said to you, and the really good things in your life right now. These don’t have to be major things – even the tiniest positive thing is a poke in the eye for stress, and proof that good things are there and do still happen, even when we may feel overloaded.

As human beings we are really good at what we focus on and what we practice. How good would life be if we focused much more on all the positives in our life!

 

If you focus on stress management regularly, in a relatively short time you can learn to more easily relax when you need to, and build resilience toward stress.

However, if you would like some extra help, feel free to get in touch for a free discovery consultation.

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