In part one of Stress – A Modern Day Virus, I outlined what stress is, why it is such a problem and how we might recognise the warning signs. In part two I will talk about the measures that can be taken to halt the build-up of stress and even reverse its effects.
People suffering from the effects of stress will often describe themselves as very busy with too much to do. Perhaps you have found yourself feeling like you have so much to cope with and such a long ‘to do’ list that it’s like spinning plates. If you’re spinning too many plates, it is only a matter of time before some start crashing to the floor leaving you feeling like you have lost all control. This is when you begin to realise that the stress virus has multiplied so much it has become overwhelming.
Are you ready to explode?
STOP! If stress is spinning out of control and you feel like a bubbling volcano then you need to stop. Even if it is only for a short break in the middle of a busy day. Perhaps you feel like any minute now your volcano is going to erupt and some poor unfortunate soul is going to get the fallout. Stop what you are doing, take yourself away from the situation, get some fresh air, anything that will change your focus and help you to feel a little calmer.
Even sipping a glass of cold water slowly over several minutes can help to quench the volcano that is your stress. It is amazing what a few moments of quiet and a few deep breaths can do to help you feel a little more in control. These measures can help in the short term, but if you are finding that you are feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis then some long-term actions are required to both tackle existing stress and prevent future episodes.
Getting to know your stress
If you are going to deal with stress then you need to face it head on. This starts with getting to know yourself, your emotions and what your stress triggers are. Perhaps you already know what, or who, your triggers are but do not know how to tackle them?
There may be some underlying causes such as trauma, insecurity or perfectionism. Maybe you have an inherent belief that you must behave in a certain way to meet the expectations of others. Whatever the causes of your stress, a valuable way of developing your self-awareness is through talking to others. This may be a family member or a friend or perhaps some professional help is required from your GP or a counsellor. Whoever you chose, talking helps to not only uncover some of the causes of stress but it also provides valuable support in what can be a challenging season of your life.
Stress management – a long term approach
Learn to say no – As children we learn to say ‘No’ at a very early age but we sometimes lose this ability as we get older. Perhaps we feel a need to please others or to be liked. The result is that we overcommit our time so there is nothing left for ourselves. What can you say no to so that you can free up some valuable ‘Me’ time. ‘Me’ time is not selfish, it is self-care.
Review who you spend your time with – There may be some people in your life who encourage you and uplift you. Spending time with them makes you feel stronger and more confident. Then there are the ‘Mood hoovers’, the ones who drain your mental energy and suck out your joy. Do you recognise any of those? Whilst it might not be possible to eliminate the ‘Mood hoovers’ from your life, it may be possible to balance the time you spend with them by spending more time with those that bring you joy.
Activities you enjoy – Are there any activities that used to bring you joy but you no longer have time for? Perhaps you used to enjoy swimming, painting, reading or walking. Do you have a crafts box hidden away in a cupboard somewhere gathering dust? Whatever the activity is that you enjoy, carve out some time for it. This is not time wasted, it is time well spent as when you are enjoying yourself, you are reducing your stress levels and literally letting joy back in to your life.
Diet and exercise – No one likes to be told that their diet and exercise could use some improvement but in the case of stress sufferers, it is often true. The moods and emotions we experience today are often influenced by what we ate and what exercise we did yesterday. Is there a small change you can make today that could improve how you feel tomorrow?
Sleep – Are you getting enough sleep at night? As we sleep, our mind and body go in to a state of repair and renewal. If you are not getting enough good quality sleep each night you may find yourself exhausted before your feet touch the floor in the morning. Lack of sleep increases stress levels and stress causes lack of sleep. It is a cycle that needs to be broken. A good bedtime routine such as a regular and consistent bed time, avoiding phone and computer screens as bed time approaches and undertaking activities that contribute to the feeling of winding down in the evening, can help both your body and brain prepare for sleep.
Taking some time to address your stress levels today and introduce some small simple changes (#stepstobettermentalhealth) can be a positive first step towards better health and the benefits can be felt quite quickly. Talking to a family member, friend or a counsellor about the changes you want to make can not only provide you with support but also encourage accountability which will make the changes long term. Reducing your stress levels can have long term benefits to both your physical and mental health and help you rediscover your inner joy.
For help and support to manage the stress in your life contact New Dawn Counselling centre today via our website https://www.newdawncounselling.org for an assessment. Or via email - firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0115 9170500.