Coping with stress

Stress is crucial in our lives - it's what gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us the motivation and energy to do many of our activities. However, too much stress can be bad for us and cause a range of problems including headaches, stomach upsets and high blood pressure. It can also cause problems such as anxiety and anger, and affect relationships both at home and at work.

People often feel over-stressed as a result of an event occurring in their life and this can be a negative event – such as a death in the family, redundancy or divorce – or a positive one such as a new relationship, a new job or going on holiday. Stress can also be acute (e.g. when experiencing bereavement) or chronic (such as being in a bad relationship).

To cope with stress, people can often turn to unhealthy ways of trying to manage their stress, such as:

       
  • Drinking alcohol
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  • Denying the problem and keeping their emotions ‘bottled up’
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  • Taking drugs
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  • Overeating
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  • Smoking

None of these will help your body to handle the causes of stress better, and all will create longer term health issues if not managed carefully. Instead of these harmful techniques, there are more natural ways of helping your body to cope with the stress. Why not try one or some of the following; Healthy ways of managing stress

Take a nap – if possible, getting 30 to 40 minutes of sleep during the day helps you recharge and re-energise yourself, and therefore be more able to cope with day to day issues.

Get a massage - ask your partner to massage your neck and shoulders, or take time out to visit a spa.  Stress often causes muscle tension, and massage will help to relieve that tension.

Be Creative - try doing something creative rather than competitive, such as acting, playing an instrument, photography, writing poetry or singing and set time aside for it each day. Deliberately cultivate the habit of listening to relaxing music too.

Eat slowly - allow at least 30 minutes for each meal, eating slowly and making sure that your diet is balanced and providing you with plenty of energy.

Relax - practise meditation, contemplation and relaxation techniques. For some people, daily sessions practising yoga/meditation or listening to relaxation tapes, may be very beneficial.

Give yourself time – probably most importantly, learn to manage your time. Ask most people what makes them stressed and they'll tell you it's not having enough hours in the day.

Understand where you spend your time - think about how you could best prioritise and itemise the many pressures in your life.

Organise your week - plan the week ahead using a week-at-a-glance diary or drawing up your own chart. If something prevents you from completing an activity, don't worry. Just try to fit it in elsewhere or make it the first thing you plan for next week. At the end of the first week, take a look at how it went. What were the big successes? Which scheduling details were less successful?

Identify turning points - those times when you consciously decided to prioritise one activity over another. Re-evaluate your goals and roles each week, so you can close the gap between what's most important to you and how you spend your time.

10 more simple ways to cope with daily stress at work

       
  • If possible, keep to your ‘official’ working hours, and don’t come in early or stay late every day, it’s an easy habit to get into.
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  • Always set yourself realistic targets for each work period.
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  • Work methodically. Always finish one task before starting another.
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  • Don't accept, or set yourself, unrealistic deadlines. Be honest with yourself about the amount of time a task will take. Unfulfilled resolutions will only make you feel guilty and inadequate.
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  • If you're unhappy in your work, stand back. Take a fresh look at your options and the goals towards which you are striving.
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  • Have one and a half days each week completely free from work.
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  • Take as much care in planning your leisure as you do in your work.
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  • In your leisure time, make sure that all reminders of work are out of sight.
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  • Take at least 30 minutes daily for physical exercise, preferably outdoors, so that you get the added benefit of fresh air and full-spectrum light. Try to walk, talk and move at a slower pace.
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  • Finally, learn to breathe properly to cope with your stress. Practise deep breathing at a regular time and in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing. To do this, breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down. Fill up the whole of your lungs with air, without forcing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in slowly and regularly, counting from one to five (don’t worry if you can’t reach five at first) then let the breath escape slowly, again counting from one to five. Keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe without pausing or holding your breath. Practise this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day.