Coping with stress

A little bit of stress is good for the body, but when it builds up we need to learn how to deal with it, so take a deep breath and chill out with's guide.

So what’s stressing you out then?

Try to view stress as a warning that some aspects of your life might need changing. In order to beat stress, you’ll need to work out what these aspects are. OK, it sounds simple, but often we are unaware of just how much stress a relationship/job/lifestyle is causing us.

It might be exams that are stressing you out, or your job, or it could be to do with school or university driving you up the wall.

Next, carry a special notebook with you to record everything you do throughout the day, noting down how stressed you felt on a rating of one to 10 for each listing. After a few days, some patterns should begin to emerge – are your ratings always higher when you are working to a deadline, dealing with a certain person, or are you just trying to cram too much into your day?

Re-training your brain

“Everything’s getting on top of me”, “I can’t cope”, “My life feels out of control”. Most of us find ourselves having thoughts like this from time to time, but it’s possible to take control of these negative tendencies. Just a bit of positive thinking can turn you back onto the path of happiness and healthiness.

How to relax

There are endless ways to relax your body and mind; it can be as simple as closing the door to the world and having half an hour on your own with a book, but introducing some formal relaxation into your life will really pay off too. Here are a few suggestions:

Breathing: OK, so we do it all the time, but very few of us do it properly. Re-train your breathing patterns and you’ll soon see an improvement in anxiety and tension levels as well as your state of mind. Mental health charity Mind can suggest some simple breathing techniques.

Massage: Use this hands-on remedy and feel an instant improvement to your body’s built-up tension. Massage Therapy UK can help you to find a qualified practitioner, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, ask a partner or friend to work on your knots instead. Mixing a few drops of aromatherapy oils into some plain massage oil will make the experience even better. AromaWeb has detailed information about each oil’s different properties and how they can help relieve depression, fatigue, anxiety and anger.

Exercise: Choose the right exercise and you’ll feel both energised and relaxed. As a general rule, yoga and Tai Chi are excellent for reinstalling calm by focusing on breathing and centring the mind, but any physical exercise will reduce stress by using up adrenalin and other hormones that the body produces under stress, as well as relaxing the muscles.

Other stress-busters:

Eat a healthy diet: Processed foods, too much salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine can all drain energy and often leave you with that ‘wired’ feeling.

Get enough sleep: The best way to do this is to regulate your sleeping hours by going to bed and waking up within a time slot of 1-2 hours.

De-clutter your life: Take anything you don’t use to a charity shop, recycle old magazines and clear away the pizza boxes from under your bed. Then go to work/college on Monday and give your desk the once over. This is the quick-fix of all de-stressers.

Just say “no” to demanding colleagues/friends/family: You know how much you can cope with, so pick out the important stuff and delegate the rest. Prioritising lists can often help you decide what really needs to be done – and what can wait. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes each day to switch off from the world and unwind.

Laugh: Research shows that not only does laughter improve our mood; it also relieves stress and improves our immune system. The next time you find yourself with a frown on your face, consider this: four-year-old children laugh on average 400 times a day, whereas adults only laugh 14 times. So go on, get those funny videos out and invite your friends over for some serious cheering up.
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