Are you struggling with stress in your everyday life?
Sometimes we need more than a pat on the shoulder from a close friend, family member or colleague to get through those stressful times. But what about those sudden emotional attacks that send clear signals to our brain that something isn’t right, you just don’t feel the same as you did a couple of hours ago, last night or even the other week.
Stress is linked to a number of other conditions including depression, anxiety, and panic attacks – for some this is just a normal part of everyday life. For others, it can lead to major mental health issues such as self-harm and even suicide.
According to a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation; in England and Wales, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged between 20-49 years.
And that’s why it’s so important to take action and real steps in order to deal with signs as soon as you see them or to help others who are dealing with stress.
Here are ten things you can do to start coping with your stress:
1) Meditate. Meditate. Meditate
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I can vouch for this one myself being a daily practitioner of meditation. This enlightening practice that originated in Hindu traditions at around 1500 BCE can help you to clear your mind.
Although it’s not as simple you may think; it’s not as easy as just sitting there in silence. Many meditators will remember the first time they sat sitting completely still as it’s found that can actually heighten our stress levels the first few times! Our busy minds simply can’t easily be put to rest…
A great place to start is by vouching to practice for just ten minutes a day. As long as you show up and dedicate this time in your day, it can truly help to quieten those battling thoughts in your head and let you see things more clearly. Why not give it a go? It may be your blessing in disguise.
Check out this great free meditation app
2) Breathe in that fresh air
You may think, is that not what we’re all doing, literally all the time? You may be wrong, many of us experiencing stress can feel short of breath, like you’re hanging on for dear life, and others can simply have difficulty breathing smoothly and consistently. They may have long pauses between breaths simply because of the overwhelming amount of worrying thoughts.
Everyone experiences stress in a different way, but problems with breathing are a common factor. If you experience shortness of breath or breathing difficulties it could be a great idea to simply take a walk around your local park, sit outside reading a book or go somewhere quiet where you will feel secure whilst focusing on your breathing more attentively.
Once you’re in a quiet space you may be able to spot abnormalities in the way you breathe. If you are breathing from your chest rather than the bottom of your stomach or diaphragm, this could be a good place to start. Many have said that breathing from the pit of your stomach can bring a natural stress relief. A good way to check is by checking how much your shoulders rise when you breathe if they rise quite a bit and your chest sticks out this could be a sign that your breath is only reaching half of your respiratory system. It’s not as bad as it sounds though, promise!
3) Prepare for what you know
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If you know that you have an important meeting at 8 am tomorrow or have a flight to catch, nothing is more daunting than setting off for your day when you’re not prepared. Just like people advice before the day of an interview, you can take the simple step of laying out your clothes, getting lunches ready for the kids or simply getting up when your alarm goes off!
This way you’ll start your day knowing full well what you need to do and what is important, and the rest of the day will be more enjoyable.
4) Positive phrases
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This one may sound too simple, but from personal experiences, I can say that it truly works wonders. A recent study by the Journal of Advanced Nursing states that repeating positive phrases with spiritual meanings have helped people cope with a wide range of problems including stress and anxiety.
It can be as easy as picking a positive phrase that resonates with you. My favourite is ‘Open heart, open Mind’ – this helps me to remind myself that I am open to expressing and receiving love from others, even strangers, and sometimes even enemies! As well as reminding me not to judge others at all, as everyone is unique for a reason.
Start by thinking of a phrase that comes from your childhood, maybe something as simple as ‘Keep it up’, or something more spiritual or religious such as your favourite quote from the Bible or a mantra.
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Many of us struggling with keeping tabs on where we spend our money. Dealing with stress, especially financial struggle can be helped by simply budgeting. If writing down expenses and incomings for you is a bit too daunting, how about using a free online budget planner to make it a bit easier.
Additionally, you can set calendar reminders or notes on your phone which will prompt you to prepare for one-off spending for birthdays, Christmas or that wedding your cousins been planning for a while.
6) Get those tunes out
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We can often forget how much music means to us; people from all cultures and all walks of life share a love of music, and have done so for centuries.
Plugging in your headphones or turning on the radio to that station you haven’t listen to for a while can bring great rushes of joy, even if you just listen to a few tracks on the way to work or picking up the kids.
Many studies have come to the conclusion that music is directly attached to our emotions, especially slow classical music, nature sounds and other ‘chill’ tunes.
A scientific study looked into these relaxing types of music and how they affected our stress levels. The alpha-amylase levels (which are in our body to help kill unwanted bacteria and break down our food) quickly returned to normal after participants listened to nature sounds and slow classical music, inevitably taking their bodies out of stress mode.
This can be a quick and productive way of relieving stress on the go, or in times when you are alone.
7) Put the phone down!
For many of us living in this tech-savvy era will find it hard to put down our phones, iPads, laptops and other devices. With 95% of Americans now owning a cell phone of some sorts, according to Pew Research Centre’s study, it may be easier said than done.
If you need to use your phone quite frequently due to work or for appointments, it may not be that easy – but what about when you get home? Do you really need to check Facebook or Twitter about ten times? You can start by limiting internet use at home to 30 minutes a day or one hour – this way you can fit in all you need to do in that time, and then put the device away in a draw.
It may be easier said than done, but many people have said that they have found more time to spend with their family, pets and loved ones, in person, after reducing their amount of digital time. This, in turn, has reduced stress levels.
Using social networking sites such as Instagram can take a really big toll on many young women and men who sometimes unintentionally compare themselves to celebrities. Just remember, there’s probably someone out there who wants what you have, just like you want what they have – so don’t stop being you!
8) See to your spine
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We can often forget that our spine is not only there to keep us upright, it also protects our spinal chord and nerves which connect to all other parts of the body. Therefore a tight or achy back can take an emotional toll on your body and brain, causing stress without you even realizing.
How can you tackle this? If you’ve been sitting slumped at your desk all day or been driving from place to place, it’s a great idea to add a stretch in here and there to relieve the pressure in your back.
Start with something as easy as ‘child’s pose’ which is a common yoga move. Neel on the ground with your hips touching your feet and lean completely forward so that your forehead is touching the ground, then press your thighs back to elongate your spine and push down and out with your fingers and arms. This a fantastic stretch that can relieve both lower and upper back pain, helping to relieve stress and tension.
You can take this a step further by practicing yoga – See Adrienne’s channel on YouTube for yoga for all abilities.
9) Don’t take things too seriously
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Those of us who suffer from stress and even anxiety, especially social anxiety, can often feel these worries heightened when doing something as simple as walking into a room of people or introducing themselves to new people. It’s because of the worry in our minds – are they looking at me? What do they think of me? and the questions go on.
A simple way of dealing with this form of stress is by simply not taking things too seriously. Take Dr. Pepper’s advice and think ‘What’s the worst that can happen’. You may fall flat on your face, but we guarantee many people have done it before you, and you won’t be the last.
Therefore look at things with a bit more humor, laugh at yourself when you make mistakes instead of beating yourself down.
10) Think about the good things
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It’s easy to get caught in the web of negative thinking – Why did I do that? Could I have not said it a bit differently? A lot of these thoughts can be attached to past experiences that cannot help us in any way now, maybe they’ve taught us a lesson or two, but that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
Instead, take time every evening or after work to think about at least one thing that felt good today or that went well. If you can’t think of anything this could be a sign you are wrapped up in these thoughts too much. Therefore simply realizing you’re thinking this way and actively stopping your train of thought and focusing on something you did well can help initially.
Something as simple as making a cup of tea for a coworker or complimenting someone can be your good deed of the day. Start there and the positive thoughts should keep on coming…
So why not give it go? If you suffer from stress just like me, it can be easier said than done. But everything happens one step at a time… maybe start with slow and steady breathing and progress from there.