It's no secret that the world is a stressful place right now. With the war in Ukraine, climate crisis, rising energy prices, COVID-19, and talk of recession—it's no wonder many of us are feeling stressed at the moment. A UK-wide stress survey - commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation - has found that almost three-quarters of adults (74%) have felt so stressed over the past year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Aiming to tackle stress and reduce the stigma around it, International Stress Awareness Week was created in 2018 to help people learn more about stress management and prevention. It runs from 7-11 November, and this year’s theme is: Working Together to Build Resilience and Reduce Stress.
Cut back on caffeine past 11 am
Turn screens off at 9 pm
Go for a walk within 1st hour of waking up
Go to bed at 10 pm
We often make the mistake of believing that time spent watching TV or reading a book are relaxing, stress-free activities. While it's true this will relax you in the short term, it doesn't actually calm or rejuvenate you. It can often even lead to your stress worsening and can cause feelings of guilt.
That's why when it comes to stress, you have to activate your body's natural relaxation response. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and visualisation are proven to be the best coping strategies for stress.
In a similar way to meditation, when you exercise you breathe deeper which activates your body's relaxation response. If you make exercise a part of your daily routine - even for 10 minutes a day - you can help yourself cope better with symptoms of stress.
Any form of exercise or physical activity helps to reduce your stress levels and has a massive influence on your mental and physical well-being.
Writing and journalling can help you boost positive emotions and reduce stress and anxiety. There are more than 200 studies that show the positive effect of writing on mental health and it's recommended you spend around 20 minutes per day writing about positive experiences.
The aim of this is to find something to feel good about even in times of stress and to find positives within experiences that make you uncomfortable or unhappy.
Stress triggers a set of biological responses including an increase in blood sugar, raising blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and the release of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
All these responses, known as ‘fight or flight', are designed to help you meet physical challenges that threaten your survival when faced with stress (e.g. how your body would respond if you were being chased by lions). The trouble is, in today’s high-stress culture, the stress response continually remains on full alert and the body does not have a chance to recover.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. An important part of any stress response includes identifying and reducing the causes of stress.
Never be afraid to reach out to family and friends for support in coping with stress.
Socialising increases a hormone within our bodies that can decrease levels of anxiety and make us feel more confident in our ability to deal with stress. Social interactions with family and friends can play a crucial role in how you function daily and spend time each day talking and interacting to relieve stress.
A lot of the time, you might feel too stressed to even find the right ways to cope and that can continue the cycle of guilt. So remember to be kind to yourself and that adapting to small changes in your lifestyle can be hugely beneficial.
Reinforce the habit of showing up for yourself: if you can't write 2 pages, try 1 page. If you can't work out for 60 minutes, work out for 20. If you can't meditate for 20 minutes, find time for just 5 minutes and then work from there.