11 Ways to Tackle Stress
Sometimes stress can be like a grey mist, dampening our optimism, enjoyment or motivation. It can present like a lead weight on our back, a heaviness in our shoulders, tension in our jaw or a stiffness in our neck, all exacerbating this general feeling of malaise.
As a result, daily tasks or events in the present or future can seem more challenging, tiresome and difficult to accomplish. This gives rise to our internal critic whose voice becomes louder, more vocal and damning. Thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m a failure’ or ‘I’m not good enough’ are common and only serve to undermine and chip away at our self-esteem. These physical, emotional and psychological occurrences can cloud our perception and effect how we view ourselves, others and the world in general.
Finding a way to see through this grey mist of stress, angst and worry can feel like a challenging task. So here are a few ways to help navigate your way through.
1) Signs and triggers
Identifying the signs and triggers to stress can help you think of actionable steps to take to mitigate its effects in the future. Stress can manifest in many ways physically, emotionally and psychologically. You may notice bodily sensations such as headaches or tiredness before realizing these symptoms are stress related. It can be helpful to observe these changes occurring. Stress is a gradual process and can creep up on us without noticing. Identifying these patterns early can help stop stress from becoming too debilitating.
During periods of stress we may be drawn to foods high in fat, sugar or salt which can temporarily give us a boost but will not help in the long term. If your diet consists of sugary rich foods try and reduce these to a minimum (click here for alternative options). Drinking too much caffeine is also known to exacerbate stress symptoms.
Guided visualizations can help you to relax in the moment and reduce stress. If you take a moment to make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine yourself in a place where you feel happy, relaxed and at ease. You might visualize yourself on a quiet sandy beach or in a forest. Notice what is happening in your body. Pay attention to your breath if you lose focus.
4) Practice self-compassion
Remind yourself you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Respond to difficult feelings with understanding and kindness.
5) Social media
Studies have shown excessive use of various social media platforms can enhance our stress levels. Finding ways to reduce your engagement with social media can help to reduce stress. For example, turn off your notifications on your phone or limit the amount of time you spend ‘checking in’, restricting this to certain times in the day.
Do you have a healthy work-life balance? Sometimes work can spill over into our home lives and other important areas get neglected. It is necessary to give ourselves permission to engage in leisurely activities and set aside time for self-care. Taking this time out to recharge can make us more energised, focused and productive in the long term.
If you are religious or spiritual, going to a place where you feel connected to god or a higher power may help to relive stress symptoms. For some this may mean sitting in a church, temple, mosque, synagogue or in nature to pray.
Do you get enough? One side effect to stress is insomnia. If you feel you could do with more sleep, why not try to go to bed a little earlier every night. You could start by going to bed at least half an hour before the time you usually go to sleep.
This doesn’t have to be attending the gym or going for a run, it could be a walk in the park or a few stretches every morning.
Practice being in the present moment. Sometimes when we are stressed our thoughts lead to worry which consist predominately of future orientated thoughts. Persistent worry can lead us to become detached from what is happening around us to the extent we start operating on auto pilot. So caught up in our repetitive, habitual and seemingly endless thread of thoughts, we lose our connection with ourselves and the present moment. Taking a moment to bring ourselves back into the present using our breath can help provide some relief.
Being ‘chronically busy’ can be a factor in triggering symptoms of stress and can mean different things to different people. Sometimes being constantly busy is synonymous with being successful, high status or being of value. It may help to think about what it means to you on a personal level. What does it feel like to not having anything planned for the day? If that notion creates anxiety, maybe you could reflect on why this may be. Understanding why we feel the way we do can help empower us to make the necessary changes to improve our lives.