Stress: Stress management
Stress Management:
How to manage stress. Tips to manage stress. Best tips

Stress management tips for anyone who wants to know how to deal with stress and how to learn to relax. We explain when and how stress can be bad for you, and provide helpful strategies for dealing with it and where to go for further help.

What is Stress?

Stress, what is it?

We all sometimes talk about stress, and feeling stressed, usually when we feel we have too much to do and too much on our minds, or other people are making unreasonable demands on us, or we are dealing with situations that we do not have control over.

Stress is not a medical diagnosis, but severe stress that continues for a long time may lead to a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or more severe mental health problems.

What causes stress?

Situations which are recognized to be very stressful are associated with change, and with lack of control over what is happening. Some of the causes of stress are happy events, but because they bring big changes or make unusual demands on you, they can still be stressful.

How to reduce stress

You can reduce the effects of stress by being more conscious of the things that cause it, and learning to handle them better, using relaxation techniques as well as other life-style changes.

What's the Best Way to Manage Stress?

If your stress is caused by the pressure of being too busy and trying to fit too much into the day, you will need to plan each day, with time for work and other tasks, and time for relaxation. Making time for leisure, exercise and holidays is just as essential as spending time on business or home worries.

Remember that a little stress is good for the body and alerts the mind. But it needs to be short-term and to be followed by a period of relaxation.

1) Manage your time

• Identify your best time of day (you may be a morning person or an evening person) and do the important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time.
• Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to do the most urgent ones first. • Try to vary your tasks in a day. Vary dull jobs with interesting ones, tiring jobs with easier ones.
• Try not to do too many things at once. You could try to start something else if you have to wait for the next stage in a previous task, but if you have too many things going on at the same time, you will start to make mistakes.

2) Act positively

• Once you've finished a task, take a few moments to pause and relax. Maybe have a healthy snack, spend a few minutes looking at the sky, or try a relaxation exercise.
• Have a change of scene. A short walk can make a big difference to how you feel, even if it’s a simple walk round the block. Try to focus on what is happening around you, rather than thinking about your worries.
• At the end of each day, sit back and reflect on what you've achieved, rather than spending time worrying about what still needs to be done.
• Try to get away every so often, if you can, even if it’s only for a day out.
• Develop an absorbing hobby or interest – an activity that uses your brain in a completely different way from your everyday work can be a great release. It can also be a great way to make new friends. This is sometimes easier when you are focusing on a shared activity with others, and not on yourself.
• Make time for your friends. Talking to them about your day and the things you find difficult can help you keep things in perspective – and you can do the same for them. Smiling and laughing with them will also produce hormones which help you to relax.
• Practise being straightforward and assertive in communicating with others. If other people are making unrealistic or unreasonable demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel and to say no. (See the Impact Factory website in ‘Useful contacts’ for tips on assertiveness.)
• If you find yourself in conflict with another person, try to find solutions which are positive for them as well as for you. Try to find the real cause of the problem and deal with it.

3) Try to accept things you can’t change

It isn’t always possible to change the things you don’t like or find difficult, but you can try and change your own attitude to them so that you don’t build up feelings of resentment or start taking your feelings out on others.

Stress: How can I Learn to Relax?

Relaxation is the natural answer to stress. Everyone should make time in the day to relax, whether we feel under stress, or not.

People often confuse relaxation with recreation. However, if hobbies or other activities – including exercise – become excessive, and make you feel even more driven or pressurized, they cease to be relaxing. If you are already exhausted in daily life, trying to relax by doing even more is not the answer.

Be more relaxed in daily life

The first thing is to become more relaxed in daily life and not to waste energy on things that don't require it; such as fidgeting impatiently while you wait for the kettle to boil, or getting impatient with the photocopier. Instead take the opportunity for a few moments of calm.

Breathing and relaxation techniques

The second is to learn some breathing and relaxation techniques.
Relaxation starts with breathing. Many people – especially those who are under stress – have a tendency to take shallow breaths, using only the top part of their chest to breathe, and not their stomach muscles. Learning to breathe more deeply can make you feel a lot calmer and increase your sense of wellbeing. Making your out-breath longer than your in-breath is especially calming.

Relaxation techniques:
There are three important parts to relaxation techniques: • Preparation – this means making time for relaxation, choosing a suitable position and making sure you are comfortable. • Method – this should follow a logical sequence, and it will be more effective if you stick to the suggested order. • Recovery – this should be part of any exercise you do. Make sure you include time for this part in your plans.

What else can I do to Cope with Stress?

Acknowledging your problems

Sometimes, people let their lives slip into chaos to mask underlying problems they are not facing or dealing with. The only person who can decide if this is happening is you and, if it is, it may be a good idea to consider talking things through with a professional. Once you've begun to tackle your problems, you will then be more able to relax.

Sleep better

Sleep is very important to health, and sleep problems, such as insomnia, are a common sign of stress. Lying awake worrying about things can make everything seem a lot worse – and the small hours of the morning are the worst time to be thinking about them. If you find you can’t stop worrying it may help to write a list of the things that are bothering you, or write yourself a letter about them. Once they are recorded, you may be able to switch off and relax more easily. Some people find it very helpful to keep a diary.

Mindfulness to manage stress

Mindfulness is an approach to wellbeing that involves accepting life and living ‘in the moment’. This includes paying attention to the present moment and taking time to see what is happening around you in a nonjudgmental way, rather than focusing on what you are trying to get done and going over your problems again and again. It involves being aware of each thought, feeling or sensation that comes to you and accepting it.

Physical activity to reduce stress

Physical activity – as long as it is not done to excess – is important for reducing stress levels and preventing some of its damaging effects on the body. Exercise helps to use up the hormones that the body produces under stress, and relaxes the muscles. It will also help to strengthen the heart and improve blood circulation. Physical activity also stimulates the body to release endorphins – natural brain chemicals that give you a sense of wellbeing – and can also help to raise self-esteem and reduce anxiety and depression.

Healthy eating

When things get too hectic or difficult, and you feel under stress, it's often easy to forget about eating well. But what you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to how you feel and how well you cope. It's important to make time for regular food or snacks and not to miss out on meals, such as breakfast. Try not to rush; take time to enjoy what you're eating.

The key to a healthy diet is variety of different types of food, with a balance of protein, carbohydrate, oily fat and fiber, including plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Alternative therapies

Many practitioners of alternative and complementary medicine take a holistic approach, which emphasizes the need to look at the whole person and not just their symptoms. Meditation, different types of massage, aromatherapy, and autogenic (a specialized relaxation technique) are just a few examples of therapies which some people have found helpful in relieving stress disorders and promoting relaxation.

Having fun

Making time for regular leisure activities can help you release tension, and to take your mind off the worries of the day. Whether you unwind by soaking in a hot bath, browsing through your favorite books, listening to music, gardening or photography, the important point is to enjoy the activity, purely for itself, and take your mind off work or whatever is causing you stress.

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