We all suffer from stress at some time in our lives. You might have kids who are under exam pressure, a partner under strain at work or, like one in five people, you may be struggling with work-life balance.
In small bursts, stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the key is to learning how to manage it. Aviva’s Medical Director, Dr Doug Wright looks at different techniques that could help you or your loved ones feel less stressed and more in control.
Adjust your mindset:
Getting into the right frame of mind is important for dealing with stress. To do that, you may want to:
• Change your perspective: Take a few steps back and look at the situation with fresh eyes to gain some perspective. Ask yourself how important this will be in a year, or five years, or 10 years. It helps to take the pressure off the moment.
• Get organised: It’s tempting to dive straight in to your to-do list, but if you’re not properly organised, it can quickly become overwhelming. Take a few minutes to set out your priorities and what you are going to tackle that day. It gives you focus, a sense of achievement, and a reason to reward yourself!
• Stop comparing yourself: Worrying about what other people are doing only adds to your stress, so avoid comparing yourself to others. This could mean not worrying about what your colleagues are working on or, for children doing exams, not discussing revision with friends.
Take time to switch off:
Finding time to relax can be difficult, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to help tackle stress. Try and set time aside to:
• Take short breaks: Taking regular breaks can help boost your productivity and improve your mood. So find half an hour to do something you enjoy – whether it’s walking the dog, listening to music, or meeting a friend on your lunch break.
• Meditate: Meditation and mindfulness have become very popular recently with many people enjoying the benefits of a clear mind and some time to themselves. You can download apps with sessions from five minutes to an hour long, and most are free.
• Spend time with family and friends: It’s common to feel isolated when you’re stressed, but it’s worth making an effort to socialise. It will offer a true distraction and a chance to relax. You could also use it as an opportunity to open up to someone and get things off your chest.
Stress takes its toll on your body, so it’s important to make sure you look after yourself properly. That includes:
• Exercise: We all know the benefits of exercise, and they’re never more valuable than when you’re feeling stressed. Whether you go for a walk, visit the gym or just dance around your front room, it all releases endorphins that can make you feel happier.
• Eat well: It’s easy to slip into bad eating habits when you’re stressed, but try to treat good food as a way to help you reduce stress. It’s the fuel to help your body and mind feel better.
• Get enough sleep: Without enough sleep, you can become much less resilient. If you’re finding it hard to sleep, try stepping away from screens at least 30 minutes before you go to bed so you have chance to unwind.