Top Ten Tips for Managing Stress11th October 2022
As we move further into autumn, some people may find the dark nights and short days a little harder. From the cost-of-living crisis to the Christmas shopping season on the horizon, stress can build at this time of year. If you work for the NHS this is also a very busy season, especially with the flu and covid booster vaccines taking place.
To help you make these colder months a time to relax and unwind, here are ten tips for managing stress…
1. Take practical steps to take control
If a particular worry is causing stress, then looking at practical solutions might make you feel less powerless. A worry can become overwhelming, but considering solutions can make you feel more in control.
Write a list of steps you could take to resolve a particular problem, even if they’re only small. Usually, there is something that can be done to resolve most issues, and if there is literally nothing you can do to fix it, then why waste time worrying about it in the first place?
This may be easier said than done but tackle the problem head-on. Do you really need to do anything about the problem, or is the problem simply anxious thoughts about a situation? Can you wait to see if it resolves itself? These are all good points to consider. Making lists and managing your time can also be helpful.
2. Keep active
When we feel stressed, it’s easy to want to stay at home and snuggle up in front of the TV. Guess what? Sometimes that’s exactly what we need!
However, physical exercise is a highly effective stress buster, which releases endorphins that make us feel good. It doesn’t even have to be an hour at the gym. Doing a few minutes of exercise, like taking a walk outside, can make all the difference.
3. Eat a balanced diet & stay hydrated
Again, people often turn to high-sugar, high-carb foods during times of stress. We’ve all been there” Stress kicks in, then suddenly you’ve finished off a whole tub of chocolate ice cream to yourself. You may think sugary foods will soothe you, but keeping a balanced diet is more likely to make you feel a lot better. In fact, did you know Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels?[i] Try and aim for a colourful plate of balanced foods, including fruit, veg and a source of protein. Stay hydrated too!
4. Connect with people
Connecting with friends, family and even new people can relieve stress and increase positive feelings. It is good to speak with people and, if you feel comfortable, talk about your feelings. Don’t think that you can’t reach out in times of stress. Even if you don’t feel like it, just chatting with a friend for five minutes can be a gamechanger.
Something as simple as breathing exercises can be a big help when stress becomes too much. Whether you’re lying down, sitting or standing up, breathing exercises can be done pretty much anywhere, and they don’t take too long either. There are different breathing exercises to do but one effective yet simple one is to breathe in for five and exhale for five. More information can be found on the NHS website.
6. Make time for ‘me time’
Whilst some problems need to be dealt with head on, sometimes it can be good to get away from it all. What better way to take your mind off negative thoughts than to do something that makes you feel good? Whether it’s listening to music or visiting your favourite coffee shop, taking some me time can be a really great stress reliever.
7. Try meditation and mindfulness
There are many different ways to experience meditation and mindfulness, including via apps like Headspace and Calm. The main idea behind mindfulness is that you take your focus away from negative thoughts and into the present moment. A person could be consumed by stress and anxiety, even if they’re sitting in the most peaceful place on earth! Mindfulness is a great way to get back into the present. Similarly, meditation brings you into the here and now, making you feel calmer and more aware.
8. Reframe your thinking
Next time you’re feeling the physical signs of stress, also pay attention to the types of thought patterns you’re experiencing. Thinking scary thoughts about bad situations from the past or worrying predictions about the future can make a person feel pretty stressed.
A good way to start changing this is to notice your automatic thought patterns and to try reframing these thoughts. For instance, if you experience self-talk such as ‘everything is going to go wrong’ when faced with a challenge, try changing this to something more positive, such as ‘everything will turn out right in the end’. This can also be done with bad thoughts about yourself. For instance, change ‘I get everything wrong’ to ‘I try my best’. This is a CBT technique, which really takes the idea of positive thinking to a new level.
9. Get enough sleep
Often in our fast-paced society, we don’t prioritise sleep enough. However, getting a decent night’s sleep is so important to our body and mind’s optimal functioning. Did you know the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night? Being well-rested can increase our ability to deal with problems during the day, and there are plenty of tips for getting better sleep. One great tip is to reduce screen time before bed. For more helpful ideas, Patient Access have a great blog on sleep. Humans spend about a third of our lives asleep, and we don’t sleep we are more irritable, less patient and less empathic.[ii]
10. Reach out
Firstly, making sure to talk with the people close to you is important. Talking can help to relieve some of the burden and can be helpful for coming up with solutions to problems. When stress becomes too much, it can also be a good idea to reach out for professional support.
We hope this blog has offered some helpful tips on managing stress. If you have any other tips to share, let us know.
If you found this blog interesting, take a look at our previous blog, A day in the life of a GP Receptionist.