10 Top Tips To Beat Stress

Mental Health

Stress is our body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress. It is often triggered when we experience something new or unexpected that threatens our sense of self or when we feel we have little control over a situation.

We all deal with stress differently. Our ability to cope can depend on our genetics, early life events, personality and social and economic circumstances.

When we encounter stress, our body produces stress hormones that trigger a fight or flight response and activate our immune system. This helps us respond quickly to dangerous situations.

Sometimes, this stress response can be helpful. It can help us push through fear or pain so we can run a marathon or deliver a speech, for example. Our stress hormones usually return to normal quickly once the stressful event is over, and there won’t be any lasting effects.

However, too much stress can cause adverse effects. It can leave us in a permanent stage of fight or flight, leaving us overwhelmed or unable to cope. Long term, this can affect our physical and mental health.

How can you help yourself?

If you're feeling stressed, there are some things you can try to feel less tense and overwhelmed.

1. Recognise when stress is a problem

Connecting the physical and emotional signs you’re experiencing to the pressures you face is important. Don’t ignore physical warning signs such as tense muscles, tiredness, headaches or migraines.Think about what’s causing your stress. Sort them into issues with a practical solution, things that will get better with time and things you can't do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards the things you can improve.Make a plan to address the things that you can. This might involve setting yourself realistic expectations and prioritising essential commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help and say no to things you can’t take on.

2. Think about where you can make changes

Are you taking on too much? Could you hand over some things to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritise things and reorganise your life, so you’re not trying to do everything at once.

3. Build supportive relationships

Find close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice that can support you in managing stress. Joining a club or a course can help to expand your social network and encourage you to do something different. Activities like volunteering can change your perspective and have a beneficial impact on your mood.

4. Eat healthily

A healthy diet can improve your mood. Getting enough nutrients (including essential vitamins and minerals) and water can help your mental well-being.

5. Be aware of your smoking and drinking

Cut down or cut out smoking and drinking if you can. They may seem to reduce tension but actually make problems worse. Alcohol and caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.

6. Get some exercise

Physical exercise can help manage the effects of stress by producing endorphins that boost your mood. It can be hard to motivate yourself if you're stressed, but even a little bit of activity can make a difference. For example, you could aim to walk for 15-20 minutes three times a week.

7. Take time out 

Take time to relax and practice self-care, where you do positive things for yourself. Striking a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself is vital in reducing stress levels.

8. Be mindful

Mindfulness meditation can be practised anywhere at any time. Research has suggested it can be helpful for managing and reducing the effect of stress and anxiety.

9. Get some restful sleep

If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you can try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume and avoid too much screen time before bed. Write down a to-do list for the next day to help you prioritise, but make sure you put it aside before bed. Read our guide' How to sleep better' for more tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

10. Be kind to yourself

Try to keep things in perspective, and don't be too hard on yourself. Look for positive things in your life, and write down things that make you feel grateful.

Content sourced from the Mental Health Foundation (mentalhealth.org.uk).

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