Just because Stress Awareness Month is over, you might be thinking you can brush off thinking about the health effects of stress for another year. However, the bad news is that unless tackled, stress won’t go away. Stress can increase your blood pressure, leading to heart and other problems as well as exasperate underlying conditions such as asthma. By taking practical steps to reduce your stress levels, you can feel calmer and less anxious, boosting both your mental and physical health.
1.Tackle your problems
Stress can be caused by many things, such as work or money problems, and to stand the best chance of keeping your stress levels under control – you need to tackle the problem. Dealing with what’s stressing you out may be uncomfortable, such as speaking to your employer about your workload or dealing with debtors, but doing so is the only way your issues are going to be resolved. There are many advice lines and charities who are available to help you tackle your problems so don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
2. Get active
Many people use exercise as a way to manage their stress, and whilst it won’t cause problems to go away, exercise can help by providing a release for any pent-up energy you’re feeling, as well as clear your mind to help you deal with your thoughts more calmly. You could take up running or get involved in some classes at your gym, or even take up yoga or pilates to help you focus your breathing and help you to be calmer, easing the effect of stress on your body and mind.
3. Don’t hide away
When we’re feeling stressed, it can be easy to retreat into ourselves and forget to socialise with others. Spending time with other people not only provides you with the practical and emotional support you need to deal with your stressful issues, but also helps to take your mind off them. Spending time with others will help you to relax and think about other things, and you may find that all you need to do is unwind once in a while to help you manage any stress you might be feeling.
4. Avoid unhealthy habits
When we’ve had a stressful day at home or in the office, it can be tempting to reach for a glass of wine or a cigarette or two, or even turn to food as a way to help us cope, but these sorts of crutches will not help to resolve the problem and could leave you reliant on them as a coping mechanism. Finding other ways to manage your stress such as talking through your problems or exercising is a much healthier way to ease the effects of stress.
5. Set yourself a goal or a challenge
Sometimes the things which are making us feel stressed can affect our confidence and self-esteem, which is why setting yourself a challenge or taking up a new hobby could be a good way to distract from your stress. Completing a challenge involves improving your skills and knowledge, helping you to grow in confidence and feel a sense of pride as you achieve your goals.
Stress can be managed through a combination of factors, such as dealing with the stress-causing issue as well as finding ways to take our minds off of things. If however your stress is starting to affect your health such as stopping you from sleeping, you should talk to your GP. Mental health is just as important as your physical health so it’s important not to ignore it. The NHS Choices website has some excellent resources to help you understand stress, as well as details of the support available to you should you need it.