April is Stress Awareness Month
Stress can affect us all in different ways, and actually a little bit of stress is not a bad thing – it keeps us focused, alert and helps us to perform better. We often face a stressful situation, we feel the stress building, we deal with the situation or the situation ends, and our feelings of stress gradually decrease and disappear.
But we can face quite serious issues if we allow it to keep building up over a long period of time, or if that feeling of stress never seems to go away.
Stress can cause the following:
Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration.
Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests.
Trouble concentrating and making decisions.
Nightmares or problems sleeping.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, or skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems and mental health conditions.
Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
So I thought I would share with you my A – Z GUIDE of quick tips, hints and strategies to help overcome the stresses and strains we might all be dealing with at some point.
A is for ACCEPTANCE
Very often a situation we find ourselves in is beyond our control, so just allowing ourselves to accept the situation can feel like a weight has been lifted.
B is for BREATHE
It is impossible to feel stressed and breathe slowly and deeply at the same time. So the next time you feel stressed breathe in – just take a few deep, slow breaths in and after each one breathe out even more slowly.
C is for CONTROL
Look at a situation and decide what is actually in your control, and if there is something you can do – then do it (if not, let it go).
D is for DECLUTTER
Decluttering your environment is so therapeutic, it gives you space and clarity as well as a sense of order and achievement.
E is for EXERCISE
Getting outside into nature and going for a walk is the simplest way to get a little bit of exercise into your day – it relieves stress and releases those all important feel good hormones.
F is for FRIENDS
Talking to friends can help put things into perspective and take your mind off your anxieties.
G is for GRATITUDE
It’s important to focus on what you DO have rather than what you don’t, what is GOOD in your life rather than what is bad and what went WELL rather than what went wrong.
H is for HOBBIES
Research shows that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression, and may even prevent depression for some. Hobbies are a perfect way to distract yourself after a busy day.
I is for INNER STRENGTH
When we are feeling under pressure or stressed we often forget how resourceful and adaptable we really are. Think back on times in your past when you have handled certain situations well. What did you do?
J is for JOURNALLING
By simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly can be a great idea if you struggle with stress, depression or anxiety.
K is for KINDNESS
This is all about small acts of random kindness and being kind to others but also about being kind to yourself.
L is for LAUGHTER
Laughter really is the best medicine! Watching a funny film, your favourite comedian or comedy show, sharing a joke or a funny story with friends, seeing the lighter side of life all help to reduce stress and brighten our day.
M is for MINDFULNESS
Go for a mindful walk, take a few moments to really notice what you can see, hear and feel. What sound do your shoes make, what you can feel underfoot, what can you see and notice all around you, look in detail at what is in front of you, what can you hear?
N is for no
Sometimes we have to learn to say NO and put ourselves first more. It is not selfish to say no, it means that you can do the things you need to do or want to do with more focus and enjoyment, and have more time for yourself or your family.
O is for OUTDOORS
It’s so important to spend sometime outdoors as often as you can. It gives you a break, a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air and really blows away the cobwebs.
P is for POSITIVITY
When we are feeling anxious or stressed the primitive part of our brain takes over and only sees things from a negative perspective in order to keep us safe and on red alert. We need to retrain our mind to find the positives in order to release that stress.
Q is for QUIET
If meditation isn’t your thing, just taking a break from social media, your phone, the tv, your computer or your work for 15 minutes everyday – make a cup of tea, flick through a magazine, find somewhere peaceful to sit and just enjoy the quiet with no external interruptions.
R is for REST
Take a break, have a rest, do something you enjoy that will give your mind some space from your usual hurried routine. We all need time to rest and recharge so that we can function better.
S is for SUN
Sunlight helps boost the chemical in your brain called serotonin, and that can give you more energy and help keep you calm, positive, and focused. Just 20 minutes in the sun can give you your daily dose of Vitamin D, in the winter taking a supplement can help keep your levels up.
T is for TALK
Talking to someone, sharing how you are feeling (often we don’t want to find a solution we just want to be heard) and opening up about a problem can be the most important step you can take.
U is for UNPLUG
When we are not on our phones we can spend more time doing other things that we enjoy, engaging more with our friends and family (face to face!) or simply being more present in the moment.
V is for VISUALISATION
When we are feeling stressed or anxious we will spend a lot of time visualising scenarios of things we DON’T want. Instead take some time to visualise how you would prefer things to be, remember times when things went really well for you, when you felt confident and in control.
W is for WALK
Just getting outside in the fresh air, noticing things around you, freeing your mind and getting some exercise immediately helps you get a break from your worries.
X is for EXHALE
Try the 7/11 breathing technique, simply take a long breath in through your nose for a count of 7 and then breathe out through your mouth for a count of 11 – the important thing here is to make sure your exhale is longer than your in-breath.
Y is for YOGA
Yoga is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, it encompasses several things all at the same time – mindfulness, breathing, stretching, exercise and relaxation (and don’t feel you have to be super bendy and flexible to be able to do it).
Z is for Zzzz
Make sure you start with a good bedtime routine, switch off devices (remove TV’s from the bedroom) and start to wind down about an hour before bed. Have your last cup of coffee at around midday and keep your bedroom cool and dark.
So there you have 26 ideas to think about and hopefully you can start to implement one or two of them. Why not choose one that will help with your mental health, one for your physical health and one for your emotional health and do them for the next 4 weeks and notice the difference at the end with your stress levels?