Stress Management: Tips To Help You Live Happier
Everybody experiences stress. It’s unavoidable for the most part and a part of life. But so is stress management.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress or are finding that your life and wellbeing are being negatively affected, it might be time to try some stress management techniques.
Believe it or not but stress is an important evolutionary trait. It helps to keep us alert and motivated, which can be a very good thing. Feeling moderately stressed can be coped with. Excessive stress, however, whether in terms of severity or the the length of time the feeling endures can be very debilitating and disruptive.
There are many reasons why we may feel stressed. Day to day activities such as work, relationships, financial concerns, large lifestyle changes and more can all add unusual amounts of pressure and stress.
Identifying Signs of Stress
Stress can affect you mentally, emotionally and physically. Some signs to look out for include:
- Unusual changes to your mood or an inability to regulate your mood.
- Constant feelings of overwhelming stress that don’t go away and don’t seem to be related to a particular issue.
- Feeling unable to concentrate, relax or do what you normally do throughout the day.
- Unusual levels of anxiety or feelings of depression.
- Sudden bursts of anger or having a short temper.
- Feeling particularly low in terms of self-esteem.
- Changes to your eating habits, sleeping patterns or use of alcohol and drugs.
- Decreased interest in activities you normally enjoyed doing.
- Feelings of nausea and/or dizziness.
Why is stress management important?
Stress management is important to help you take control of your life and live in a happier, healthier way.
As the saying goes, the best time to start was yesterday, but the second best time is today. The same goes for implementing effective stress management techniques
By putting a concerted effort into managing your levels of stress you’ll feel better, be able to do more and be the best version of yourself that you can be. Of course, stress management doesn’t get rid of stress. You’ll still get stressed from time to time, and may find that it’s still an impediment to your life. (That’s where professional intervention comes in – more on that below.)
It’s still important that you start to implement some stress-reducing habits and techniques for your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your loved ones around you.
Tips for Stress Management
1. Focus on work-life balance
In today’s world, overwork is a common source of stress. Not only has long working hours been linked to higher risks of strokes and heart disease, it also sucks away your precious time. This time could be better used in a variety of ways to help your stress management and improve your mental health.
2. Move your body and get some exercise
Regular exercise is obviously very good physically but it’s also good emotionally as well. Exercise actively reduces negative feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.
You can engage in any form of exercise that suits you: running, swimming, cycling, sport, dancing… The options are endless!
If you’re feeling time-poor, there are even ways in which you can incorporate exercise into your everyday routine. Some examples include:
- Riding a bike or walking instead of driving.
- Using the stairs instead of elevators.
- Active household chores like cleaning your home or washing your car.
- Taking time to go on a walk during lunch breaks.
3. Eat healthily and avoid excessive alcohol
Eating well is a key component of healthy living. There is a lot of research behind how food and diets affect your mood. While junk food, sugary treats and fatty snacks might taste good in the moment, they’ll negatively impact your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Instead, try these diet-related stress management tips:
- Ensure you drink enough water every day.
- Avoid processed, sugar and fatty foods.
- Make sure you’re consuming the right vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin C and D, magnesium and Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Limit your carbohydrate intake.
- Include a wide variety of foods such as fruit, vegetables, beans, eggs, nuts, meat, fish, spices and fermented foods.
4. Make sure you get enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep will increase your stress levels while decreasing your ability to cope with stress. Combine that with the feedback loop that increased stress is likely to keep you up at night and you have the perfect cocktail for disaster.
Make a concerted effort to get enough sleep each night, seven to eight hours at a minimum for adults. When it comes to children, new research from the University of SA has indicated that sleep (along with exercise) is the BEST use of time for kids’ health and development.
Just some of the positive benefits of getting enough sleep include:
- Improved ability to concentrate
- Decreased likelihood of getting sick
- Improved ability to regulate moods and cope with stress
The duration of your sleep is not the only important factor to consider as part of your stress management program.
Get some sunlight – spending time outdoors, in the sun and amongst nature will help you physically and help your body rejuvenate more effectively while you sleep.
Avoid stimulants before bed – the less alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants you consume, the better the quality of your sleep.
Follow a schedule – going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time is very beneficial behaviourally and physically.
Don’t look at screens – try avoid using smartphones, watching TV or going on laptops and other electronics for 30 to 60 minutes before going to sleep.
5. Spend quality time with family and friends
Spending quality time with your loved ones, including family and friends, will both actively help you feel better in the moment and–over the long term–help with effective stress management.
Connecting with supportive friends with whom you can talk will help improve your feelings, reduce your stress and put things in perspective. Good listeners and caring friends are priceless, so carve some precious time from your day to spend time with them.
There are even benefits to spending time with pets and other animals. Just the companionship alone helps to reduce stress levels and improve emotional/mental wellbeing.
6. Do something you enjoy
Getting stuck into a hobby or activity that you genuinely enjoy doing is very effective for managing your stress. For one, it takes your mind off the source of your stress and gives you the opportunity to concentrate on something else.
It’s not just the distraction that’s valuable. Doing something that brings you pleasure and happiness will actively reduce the levels of stress you experience.
Here are just a few ideas of different activities that you may enjoy doing:
- Reading books
- Listening to music
- Playing music
- DIY or building projects
- Painting, writing or other creative arts
- Playing sport
- Light strolls or walks through nature
- Cooking or baking
7. Give yourself a break
Taking the time to relax and focus on yourself is not indulgent or a luxury: It’s an essential form of self-care.
Remember that instruction they always give out during safety briefings before a flight? In the event of an emergency, always put YOUR oxygen mask on first before helping others. Why? Not because you are selfish. In fact, it’s the opposite. Ensuring you’re healthy and functioning will better enable you to help those around you.
It’s the same with stress management. Taking some much-needed time off is important for your mental health. It will help you cope with everything else you need to during the day, the week, the month and the year.
Whether it’s a short break from your daily work schedule or a proper holiday make sure you practice positive self-care and give yourself time to relax and recuperate.
You wouldn’t be too hard on others, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
8. Stress-reduction techniques
There are numerous ways to actively reduce your levels of stress; yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and deep breathing are all excellent stress management techniques.
The practice of yoga is known to help people relax and experience less stress. It’s an active way to improve your health, flexibility, strength, and movement. Importantly it engages your breathing, body and mind – all of which will contribute to you feeling better and more capable of dealing with life!
Meditation or mindfulness can be described in many ways. We like thinking about it as taking the time to slow down, concentrate on the present and focus on accepting reality for what it is.
Some people can feel a bit confused at how to meditate properly. There’s no right or wrong way. Here are some steps to help you out though:
- Set aside some time to be undisturbed and commit to the session.
- Find a quiet, safe place.
- Sit down on a comfortable seat or on a pillow on the floor. (You can lie down but you always risk falling asleep – which is good before bedtime.) You can close your eyes or leave them open.
- Focus on a single thing: your breath, a feeling, a word, a phrase or even an object.
- As thoughts interrupt your meditation, let them simply appear and disappear. Don’t try to stop them, control them or not focus on them. Don’t judge the thoughts or yourself for thinking them either. Just notice the thoughts come and go.
- Keep going back to your ‘object’ of focus repeatedly throughout your meditation session without worrying about how or how many times you lose focus and have to ‘start again’.
Deep breathing exercises can be done as part of meditation, and make up an important component of yoga. It can be done independently though. Actively breathing deeply brings more oxygen into your body and brain, calming your nervous system and improving your ability to cope with stress and relax. If you find yourself feeling acute stress, take just a few moments to breath deeply. You don’t have to do it for long. In fact, short but repeated acts of deep breathing are hugely beneficial.
9. Seek professional guidance
There are a lot of ways in which you can engage in helpful and important stress management. Sometimes you just need a helping hand in the form of a professional therapist. Counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy provided by a trained psychologist can really help you in many ways. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help and advice to improve your mental health. You wouldn’t avoid seeing a doctor for a physical problem, so why avoid seeking valuable assistance for stress or other mental problems.
We’re here for you
If you would like to find out more about seeking psychologists’ services, you can always give our team a call for a professional, confidential discussion. Just contact us today on (08) 9344 1318.