Most people struggle with stress at some point in their lives and it can happen for a variety of reasons; money, work, relationship problems, health concerns or transient stresses such as giving a presentation, getting married or exam pressures and our response is to feel stressed.
How do you know if you’re stressed? Well, for some people it’s really obvious and they’re very aware of it. For others, it creeps up on them and they’re unaware of how stressed they’ve become. Common signs are becoming irritable, experiencing altered sleeping patterns i.e. you’re sleeping more or struggling to get off to sleep or waking in the night or early in the morning. You may also find that your eating patterns have changed too; you’re either off your food or you’re eating more than usual and probably making poor food choices. There are also a number of physical symptoms which can suggest that you’re feeling stressed; recurring headaches, feeling tired, altered bowel habits (can be related to altered eating patterns or bring about conditions such as IBS) raised blood pressure and a number of other physical symptoms can suggest that you’re struggling with stress.
Irrespective of how you respond to stress, the important thing is that you are aware that you’re feeling stressed and what’s causing it – and then do something about it!
My top 10 tips to reducing stress are:
1) Consider if you have any control over what you’re feeling stressed about. Sometimes there are things that we have absolutely no control over and if you’re feeling stressed about something like this, then you need to acknowledge that you can’t change it and allow yourself to put it to one side – release it if you can.
2) If you’re stressed about something that’s not urgent, this can also be left to one side. Give yourself a reasonable date in the future when you’ll deal with it and once you’ve done that, you can safely forget about it for a while.
3) Go for a walk. Exercise is a good way of reducing your stress levels and no matter how fit you are, going for a walk is instant, easily available and more importantly free. You don’t need fancy outfits or designer kit to wear, just comfortable clothing and shoes. If you’re not used to walking, start off walking around the block and build up gradually. Remember, if you walk until you’re tired, you’ve still got to get back so be realistic about your abilities.
4) Recognise where you carry stress in your body. Whether it’s in your shoulders, your jaw, your stomach or anywhere else, focus on the tension and allow yourself to relax. You can do some gentle relaxation exercises (have a look on YouTube, there’s lots!) to help you undo the tension and knots in your body.
5) Talk to someone. There are a number of people who can help. Start with someone you trust whether it’s your mum, husband, wife or partner, your best friend or someone in your community who you trust. Let them know how you feel. They don’t have to give you the answers, just being heard can help to alleviate stress.
6) If you feel you need more significant help, consider talking to a professional, such as your GP or a therapist. GP’s can refer you to Talking Therapies or you can find a qualified Therapist privately and usually much quicker.
7) Look at the causes of your stress. Whatever the primary cause, who can you talk to in this area to help reduce your stress.
i) If you have money worries, ignoring the situation tends to lead to it becoming worse. There are a number of organisations that can help starting with the Citizens Advice Bureau who can guide you to the people who can really help. Most organisations much prefer you to ask for help sooner rather than later and put a plan into place to deal with your problems.
ii) Relationship problems start with you talking to each other. Even if that conversation is only to agree that you need help to work through your problems. Organisations such as Relate can be very helpful in a number of ways including helping you deal with overcoming difficulties and support when the relationship cannot be saved. There are a number of private Therapists who also work with relationship issues.
iii) If your stress is work related, you can talk to your boss if you’re finding that you can’t cope with it. If you feel that this is not an option, do you have an Occupational Health Department or Human Resources Department that you can talk to? If you’re with a smaller company, consider how you can change your working patterns to help alleviate stress. Don’t think that by ignoring it, it will go away – it doesn’t usually work that way. It may even be that if the industry that you’re working in is known to be very stressful, you may need to consider a change of job. This can be easier said than done but shouldn’t be ignored. Is it time to look for something with a slightly easier pace or workload?
iv) Is your health causing you to feel stressed? The majority of stress comes from the unknown so instead of trying to ignore it and hoping it will go away, talk to your GP and allow them to decide if it is something that needs further attention. This is the one thing that won’t go away with a bit of relaxation so do something about it.
8) Consider the worst case scenario and what you’d do about it. If the worst case scenario is that you’ll be out of a difficult or unhappy relationship, then apart from the upheaval initially, is that so bad? Being on a payment plan for your debt, having an intimate examination by your GP, looking for a new job – are any of these things really so bad when you’re looking at the cause of your stress and how you can reduce it? The hardest part is making the decision to do something about it. The rest is much easier once the decision is made.
9) Self Care. We often think when we do things for ourselves, we’re being selfish. Actually, self-care is incredibly important for your wellbeing both mentally and physically. Recognise what you need to do and respond to it, whether it’s a physical need such as needing to have something to eat or drink, or a psychological need such as giving yourself 5 minutes to clear your mind and switch off for a bit. Listen to your body and acknowledge your needs. You’re as important as everyone else.
10) The most important thing about stress is that you don’t ignore it so make a point of doing something about it today. No matter how small a step, take that first step now and do something.
Now is the time to take notice of what is going on in your life and if it’s causing you stress, do something about it.
If you’d like help with stress, then there are a number of ways that I can you. Contact Catherine today at Catherine@berkshiretherapist.co.uk to find out how.