6 ways to manage stress

Don't let feelings of worry take over your life - try these anxiety-easing hacks and ways to manage stress by Jerry Silvester

Feeling restless? Struggling to sleep? Irritable? These are all likely symptoms of chronic stress. While there is no magic wand to ensure our bosses won’t overload us with work, there may just be some valuable steps we can take to reduce the impact this anxiety has on us.

Identify stress sources

It’s not always easy to understand exactly what the source of our stressor is, but according to mental health charity, Mind (mind.org.uk), dealing with the source of stress with assertive communication, helps to empower us and enable us to communicate more efficiently, when experiencing stressful situations and therefore manage such stress a little better.

Exercise frequently

It’s an oldie, but it’ll always be a goodie. According to Harvard Medical School, ‘Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators’. Exercise relieves stress and pain. OK, need we say more?

Widen your social networks

Make new friends. We know this may sound easier said than done. Who has the time? Where will you meet them? It could be worth considering joining a new club or starting a hobby that’s always intrigued you. You might just meet your new best friend! Plus, social interaction has proven benefits for busting stress. A study found that during stressful times, being around friends decreases levels of cortisol (psycnet.apa.org) – so get out there and find some pals (lockdown restrictions permitting).

Eat mindfully

Think eating has nothing to do with stress? Think again. According to Harvard University, ‘Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system.’ Experts suggest starting gradually with mindful eating, consuming one meal a day, or week, in a slower, more attentive manner. Be aware of intake of caffeine and alcohol, too. They may appear to reduce tension in the short term, but this is misleading, and both can often increase feelings of stress.

Get outside

According to mental health charity Mind, ‘Ecotherapy is the name given to a wide range of treatment programmes which aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature. Connecting with nature in this way can have lots of positive health benefits.’ Examples of eco therapy include: outdoor activities/exercise, care of farm animals, gardening, and conservation work. Getting fresh air whilst walking a dog is also proven to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. If you don’t have one yourself, animal rescue shelters are always looking for volunteers (lockdown restrictions permitting).

Review your lifestyle

You may need to assess whether you are taking on too much. Taking time to relax and trying to strike a balance between responsibility to your commitments, and to yourself, is crucial in reducing chronic stress. Mindfulness and meditation can be practised anywhere and at anytime, no matter how packed your schedule. Research suggests that both can be incredibly helpful in reducing anxiety, stress, and low moods. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed and unable to decide what the next step is, always consider reaching out to your GP who can refer you for varying types of support, as well as to a safe, and registered therapist, if you so wish.

This article first appeared in Issue 12 of Be Kind magazine, published February 2020