Top ten stress reducing tips

Guest post by

Anna Mathur

Psychotherapist (BACP accredited) and bestselling author. Anna is passionate about taking therapy out of the therapy room and is widely celebrated for her accessible mental health advice. Often told through her own experiences, Anna has an approach to mental health like no one else, whether it is providing advice on anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or encouraging self-worth.

Author views are not our own.

Top ten stress reducing tips

Guest post by

Anna Mathur

Psychotherapist (BACP accredited) and bestselling author. Anna is passionate about taking therapy out of the therapy room and is widely celebrated for her accessible mental health advice. Often told through her own experiences, Anna has an approach to mental health like no one else, whether it is providing advice on anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or encouraging self-worth.

Author views are not our own.

We juggle more than ever, and the demands of work and home life can feel ever increasing and heavy to carry. You are not alone if you are feeling stress and tension right now. But fear not, I have ten tried and tested tips to help lift some of that metaphorical weight off your shoulders!

Stress isn’t a sign of lack of resilience or weakness, but simply your body and mind’s reaction to feeling under pressure or threat. Here are some common stress triggers you might relate to:

  • Facing change
  • Being under pressure
  • Facing uncertainty and feeling out of control
  • Not having enough time to do the things that refuel you and make you happy
  • Overwhelming responsibilities

Stress sure gets a bad rap but it might surprise you to know that stress isn’t all bad! It is a motivating, physical process, fuelling us with hormones that make us move and think quickly. It can motivate us to tick things off the to-do-list, to arrive at an important appointment in time.

However, experiencing chronic or prolonged feelings of stress doesn’t serve us. Our body simply isn’t designed to live at such a pace so consistently. So if you’re finding it hard to hop off life’s fast-moving treadmill for long enough to let your heart slow and your shoulders drop, here are 10 things that have helped me and my clients:

1 – Reframe ‘efficiency’. Often when we are stressed, we work harder to complete the task or overcome the challenge in the hopes that the unpleasant feelings will reside. However, in pursuit of doing more, the things that actually contribute to our wellbeing and ability to be efficient are nudged out of our day! These things might be sleep, rest, socialising, creativity, exercise. Consider what might have fallen by the wayside in this period of stress and know that whilst it might feel counterintuitive, those things are a part of helping you get the job done well and maintaining your mental health in the process.

2 - Implement new boundaries in your day! More of us are working from home than ever, and when home and work life collide, the boundaries that differentiate the two can easily feel flattened. Our minds respond well to structure and routine, so why not add a change of scenery to your working days. A brisk walk outside to mark the beginning and end of the day perhaps, or intentionally switching off email and work notifications for the evening and early morning so that you can reclaim that time as your own.

3 – Slow down. When we feel stressed, our body’s systems are fired up and ready to race. There are many activities to try that slow your breathing and tell your body it’s safe to take a break and a pause. Explore meditation, yoga, stretching or breathing exercises, and find something that suits you. There are many apps and videos online to guide and teach you ow to benefit from these practices.

4 – Keep talking. I know talking can feel fruitless if the person you’re talking to can’t practically help or relieve you of the stress. But don’t underestimate the absolute power of offloading and talking out your frustrations. Talking about the very things that cause you stress, and voicing how you feel helps you process and gain clarity on what steps you might like to take.

5 – Go gently with yourself. If you feel self-criticism or frustration creeping in in times of stress, remind yourself that you’re simply just carrying a lot right now. Self-criticism increases stress, whereas self-compassion kindness relieves it! If you find it hard to offer yourself this kindness, how might you seek that from someone else?

6 – Engage in the power of ‘no’. If, like me, you battle with people-pleasing and finding it hard to say ‘no’, now is the time to begin valuing the limits of your own resources. Every ‘yes’ has a cost attached to it, be it time or emotional/mental energy. When asked to do something, question whether you have the resources available to you right now.

7 – Move your body! Exercise releases stress relieving, happiness inducing hormones! Have you moved today? How can you bring more movement into your day, whether it’s a walk or a workout, the important thing is to get the blood flowing and the endorphins rising!

8 – Nourish yourself. In times of stress we can often find ourselves reaching for sugar and caffeine to get us through and tide us over. They might offer quick relief or bursts of energy, but they also take your blood sugar on a rollercoaster. How can you support yourself and your mind in the way you are nourishing your body?

9 – Switch off the senses. When we are busy, we are taking in so much information and stimulus. It is easy to become overstimulated by noise, imagery, movement and information. The only antidote to overwhelm is rest, enabling you to refuel and then later refocus. Lie down in a quiet space and cover your eyes for a moment to give your body and brain a welcome break, and let your wired nervous system have a moment of respite. It will thank you for it later!

10 – Get checked over. If you feel overwhelmed by feelings of stress and can’t seem to calm the cortisol soaring through your body like electricity, please do speak to a health practitioner. They can conduct a blood test to explore any other causes of that heightened feeling.

Little by little, the little changes can have a big impact on your general wellbeing. Your body and mind work very hard for you in times of stress, and whilst we are often applauded for ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, repeatedly pushing through the limits of our resources has a high cost. Overwhelm and burnout are rife in this digital age where boundaries between home and work life are less obvious. Beginning to respect the limits of our humanness by seeking rest and opportunities to refuel is a sure-fire way to find more balance in our life.

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