As the days get shorter and increasing numbers of people start to get the ‘winter blues’, more attention is turning towards mental health and people becoming stressed. Everyone feels stress, but for some, it can be more difficult to manage than others. Dealing with stress is a very important part of keeping yourself healthy and there are some relatively simple measures that you can do to reduce and avoid stress. #nationalstressawarenessday
Eat a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is not only good for your body, but for your general mental wellbeing. For example, while it may seem like you need things like caffeine and sugar to get you through a busy day, stimulants such as caffeine will only increase your level of stress and can also lead to a low when it wears off. Try to swap out caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and many fizzy drinks with water, natural fruit juices or herbal teas.
Eating refined sugars found in many manufactured foods, confectionery and even salad dressings and bread can also lead to a crash, leading to you feeling tired and irritable. In general, try to stick to a healthy diet. Ensure you eat the five pieces of fruit and veg a day, and make sure you have enough food containing Magnesium and Vitamins B and C. These can involve citrus fruits, bananas, nuts, seeds, oats, brown rice, meat and fish, and leafy green vegetables.
Avoid Alcohol, Cigarettes and Drugs
While these all may offer a short-term release, you should try to avoid them as much as possible – or at least cut down the amount you have. Over time, substances will only serve to increase your stress levels, and relying on these crutches will not help your problems. Alcohol is both a stimulant in smaller quantities and a depressant when taken in larger quantities, and although nicotine may act as an instant stress relief, it can actually cause greater stress over time.
Exercise and get moving
Exercise is one of the most effective methods of both dealing with stress and avoiding it in the first place. Putting physical pressure on your body releases endorphins, which help to ease depression and anxiety. Exercise will also distract you from your worries, leaving you with a clearer head to deal with the problems head-on. It will also ensure that you get better night’s sleep.
You will gain the most from 30 minutes or more of exercise, but it is perfectly ok to build yourself up gradually, every little helps! Activities can range from running or playing a team sport to a quick walk around the block, stretching exercises, yoga or simply putting on some music and having a dance. Whatever you choose, make sure you enjoy it, so you will want to keep at it.
Get more sleep
A lack of sleep is a major reason behind daily stress. Getting enough sleep can, of course, be difficult if you are stressed! However, there are a few steps that you can take to try and improve the quality of your sleep. As mentioned above, daily exercise and tiring your body out is an excellent way of preparing your body for sleep. Focus on relaxation, turn down the lights, have a bath, and turn off all screens at least half an hour before you plan on going to bed, and you should hopefully find it easier to go sleep.
Reach out and talk to people
The mere act of talking to someone and sharing your problems can help you manage your stress. Having a good support network of friends and family can help you find solutions to your problems and give you a sense of belonging and comfort, which can, in turn, help you when the going gets tough. If you don’t feel you can share your problems with loved ones, organisations such as the Samaritans are always available to listen. Remember that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is a saying for a reason!
Manage your time effectively
Time pressures and constraints can often be a significant contributor to stress. Combating this with efficient time management is a great way to make deadlines less daunting and more manageable. Make a to-do list and reminders to ensure that you prioritise only the most important things and break your work down into smaller, more digestible chunks. This can help make a seemingly unmanageable task much more approachable.
Rest if you are ill
Don’t overwork your body when you are feeling under the weather. Pushing it to further extremes will not only prolong the illness but also increase your stress levels as you struggle to work as effectively as you do when you’re healthy. A short period of rest will allow the body to recover more quickly than if you force yourself to carry on.
Take time for yourself
it is important to look out for yourself and not needlessly take on more than you can chew. This applies to both your home and work life. At work, try to keep your workload manageable through good time management and remember to say no to projects if you don’t have the capacity. Don’t be afraid to take time to yourself at home either. Take a few minutes every day to focus on yourself and choose to do a relaxing activity such as read a book or meditate. Practising meditation can help to clear your mind and to release yourself, mentally and physically, from the tensions of the day. Other things to do could be taking a long bath, or placing a heat wrap around your neck for a few minutes.
Take a deep breath
While this may sound a little clichéd, taking some time to practise your breathing does help to calm you down and retain focus and clarity. Sit up straight, placing your hands on your belly and lose your eyes. Breathe in slowly through your nose allowing your belly to slowly expand, allowing the air to run through your body. When you near full capacity, push the air out through your mouth with a bit of pressure, releasing all your built-up tension. Practising this a couple of times a day can be very beneficial to managing your stress levels.
Don’t be afraid to take medication
Depending on whether your symptoms are more physical (sweating, tremor, faster heart rate) or psychological (fear, disengagement, sadness, frustration), your GP can select a suitable medication to treat your individual set of circumstances if medication is warranted.
If your GP has indeed prescribed you medication for your symptoms, using Echo can take away the stress from medication management. The app reminds you when to take your medication and when you need to reorder – helping you never skip a dose.