Tips for coping with stress

Published: 03/11/2021

November 3 is National Stress Awareness Day. In our latest blog, we look at the importance of recognising when we are feeling stressed and some useful tips to help you manage stress... 

According to the Mental Health Foundation in the last year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been unable to cope. Firstly, let's take a look at what stress is and how it affects our body and mind.

What is stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. When we encounter stress, our body produces stress hormones that trigger a fight or flight response and activate our immune system - this allows us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.

A small amount of stress can be beneficial as it can help you push through fear or motivate you to take action and complete tasks. However, too much stress can have negative effects on your body and mind. The long term effects of stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed putting a strain on both your physical and mental health.

Signs and symptoms of stress

The signs and symptoms of stress can vary from person to person. They can be physical, mental or behavioural. The emotions and mental changes associated with stress will depend on each individual. Those experiencing stress may feel:

  • anxious
  • sad
  • irritable
  • afraid
  • angry/ aggressive
  • frustrated
  • depressed.

These feelings can sometimes cause physical symptoms. They can include:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • increased heart rate (heart palpitations)
  • sweating
  • aches and pains
  • high blood pressure
  • shallow breathing/ hyperventilating.

Stress can also cause changes in behaviour. Behavioural changes can include:

  • withdrawing from other people or snapping at them
  • trouble falling asleep or waking up
  • being indecisive/ inflexible
  • smoking or drinking more frequently.

There are plenty of things you can do to reduce stress and boost your mood. Stress management techniques can be beneficial and can support you to deal with stressful situations more calmly and effectively.

If you are stressed, whether by your work or personal life, the first step to feeling better is identifying the cause. By understanding the cause of your stress, you can take steps towards managing stress and feeling better. Here are our top tips for coping with stress in the long run.

Top tips for coping with stress

  • Keep a stress diary 

Keeping a stress diary is a great way to keep track of when you feel stressed and what caused you to feel that way. Each day write down the tasks you completed and how they made you feel. If something makes you feel happy, include that too. Tasks/ events that bring you joy will naturally help relieve stress.

  • Be active

Regular physical activity is proven to help boost your mood. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger positive feelings in your brain. Regular exercise can reduce some of the emotional intensity that you are feeling. Exercise will help to clear your thoughts and allow you to deal with problems more calmly and rationally. Just 30 minutes of exercise three times a week will go a long way in providing stress relief.

  • Connect with people 

Having a good support network in place, whether family, friends or colleagues, can help ease your worries and support you to see things from a different perspective. Spend time connecting with your loved ones and doing things that feel good. Sometimes just sharing how you are feeling with someone can ease your concerns. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.

  • Talk to your employer

If your stress is work-related you should talk to your employer about how you are feeling. If you have associated key stress triggers to your workload, an open conversation with your manager could result in  support with identifying ways to better manage your workload.

  • Take time for you

Set aside a couple of hours per week for you to do things you enjoy. Whether it is an outdoor activity, reading a book, cooking your favourite meal or attending an exercise class. Quality time doing the things you enjoy will help you relax and recharge. 

  • Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals in your work and personal life can help shift your focus. Challenging yourself could help build your confidence and reduce stress. 

  • Practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques or meditation exercises are a great way to relieve stress. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, clear your mind, and take a deep breath. You can stay here for as long as you need, breathing in and out slowly. A few minutes of meditation each day could clear your mind and help you focus on the things you can control.

  • Stay positive

One of the best ways to reduce your stress levels is to have a positive outlook. Try writing down three things that you are grateful for or that went well each day and use them as a reminder when you feel stressed, anxious or worried.

Where can you get help?

If you are becoming overwhelmed with feelings of stress, there are several resources available to access advice and support. 

Anxiety UK

You can also seek advice and support from your local GP. They will be able to signpost you to local services that can help. The most important thing is to take control and ensure you take steps towards a healthier mind and body. For more advice, you can visit the Rethink Mental Illness website here.