There are many things you can do to manage your stress levels without needing to resort to medication. These include getting exercise or talking to friends and family about your problems. Mental wellbeing advisor Marianna Kilburn explores these self-help techniques.
Many people long for a simple technique to manage their stress levels, yet struggle to find one.
While many stress management techniques require a little dedication, they are in fact a lot easier than many people assume them to be, yet can have a significant impact on your life.
Often, understanding the reason you are feeling stressed will help you on your way to solving your problems. Finding the most effective stress management technique for you may take a little time, but there is no reason why you can’t try out a few simultaneously and see which you prefer.
The first piece of advice that anyone will give you is to speak to someone about your problems as it is not something you should ignore. Although it can be hard to speak to someone else about issues you are facing, there is more than an element of truth in the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’
Voicing your problems is often the easiest way to identify the real reason that you are feeling stressed. For some people, getting something off their chest with friends or family provides the greatest source of comfort, for others they find it easier to talk to a stranger, in which case a counselling session may be the most effective.
It is important not to lose contact with other people and get entirely absorbed into whatever is causing you stress. Losing touch with reality will often worsen your problems, as they then become out of proportion to the true situation.
Exercise is a natural stress-reliever. Aside from helping to produce the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin, it also uses up excess levels of the stress hormones which are constantly being produced when you are feeling under pressure. Using up the increased levels of adrenalin, noradrenaline and cortisol makes it easier for you to relax and, so to speak, de-stress.
Exercise does not mean running a marathon – going for a walk each day, even in the pouring rain in the winter, can go a long way to relieving stress. It will also give you a regular dose of vitamin D (natural is the best form), even on the cloudiest of days, as your body is exposed to UV light.
There are many relaxation techniques which can be learnt and adopted, ranging from meditation and yoga, to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Some may be more appealing than others and it is often best to go with what you think feels the most engaging – you are consequently more likely to experience better results.
Meditation and yoga both target the way you breathe, slowing it down and allowing your muscles to relax. It then helps you to quieten your mind so that you are able to turn your thoughts away from all of your worries and woes and enjoy some calm and peace.
CBT, on the other hand, adopts a slightly more clinical approach. It works by changing the way you think, perceive and act in a situation. It allows you to put every situation into perspective so that you do not overreact and stress or panic in a situation which does not warrant such a reaction.
The key to managing stress is to take steps to allow you to feel in control of the situation. Some of the following self-help tips can be useful for you to get on top of the stress you are experiencing:
Take charge of the situation. One of the most helpful ways to do this is to make a list of all the things that are contributing to you feeling stressed. With this list, try to change the way you deal with each stressor or by writing a possible solution
Make time to relax. It is important that you make time for yourself, giving your mind and body a chance to relax. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing exercises. The more you use these techniques, the calmer you will feel
Be more assertive. Many people end up stressed as they take on too many social or work responsibilities. Help yourself by not saying ‘yes’ to everything you are asked to do
Organisation. Make sure you arrange your day so that you have enough time to fit in the important things. Don’t overcrowd your diary – this will leave you feeling stressed and deflated by what you have not got round to doing, when in actual fact, you should feel proud of yourself for what you have achieved
Use the weekends wisely. Don’t fill every waking hour with never-ending tasks – help yourself by making time to relax
Preparation is key. Many people find that if a stressful event is coming up (a presentation or exam), having plenty of time to prepare and practice helps increase self-confidence tremendously. Being more prepared means less stress on the day.
Sometimes we need a helping hand to overcome stress. Whilst trying the stress management tips above, you may want to take a herbal stress reliver at the same time. I recommend AvenaCalm for gentle support of low stress levels, or Stress Relief Daytime if you are really feeling under pressure and unable to cope.
Marianna works in central London as a Trainer and In Store Health Adviser for A Vogel. She is also a Practitioner Life Coach with both personal and professional experience in stress management. She has a passion for helping people tap into their inner wisdom and maximise their potential for good health. Marianna’s aim, in these pages, is to share tools and tricks for well-being and encourage a search for personal solutions to life’s challenges.
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