Feeling stressed? You are not alone. Read on for some top tips for Stress Awareness month.
Fri 26 Mar 2021
I feel stressed!!!
This year more than ever we have been expressing how stressed we feel, but do we understand what stress is, and more importantly do we have a strategy for coping with stress?
Mental health stats tell us that currently nearly 50% of us are feeling stressed, anxious or worried. If we already had preexisting mental health concerns before covid, that number rises to over 60%. But the thing that is interesting is that stress is not a medical diagnosis. Anxiety is, depression is, burnout is, but not stress. The problem this leaves us with, is that stress can mean quite different things from one person to another. For some people it is a purely psychological state but for others it comes out in physical symptoms, like palpitations, IBS, shortness of breath.
My other concern is that sometimes we use the word stress because it’s acceptable, but actually we are experiencing something more. We don’t like to think of ourselves as having an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, but to feel stressed is “normal”. For me, the big question here is “can I function?” If the answer is yes, then I think we can use the word stress, but if you are finding that your stress is making you avoid certain situations, keeping you awake at night, stopping you from enjoying the things you normally would do, then it's worth doing a proper check in with yourself and thinking whether it might be something a bit more.
Lots of chemicals and hormones are involved in how we feel when we are stressed. The top ones being noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, and when we perform brain scans we can see that parts of the brain involved in production of these hormones change in size when we are subjected to chronic stress. My point being, stress is real and needs to be taken seriously or it can lead to longer term problems with both our mental and physical health.
So what are my top evidence based strategies for dealing with stress?
- Take some time to think about what is causing stress in your life. Have a look at some information online on Covey's Circles and work out what things that are stressing you are within your control to change and what things are outside of your Circle of Influence. Aim to change the things that you can change and let go of the things that you cannot.
- Organise your life. Take some time to create a bit of a structure. Make sure there is some time for yourself in there.
- Prioritise social interactions. Being alone with stress has been shown to not only impact our mental health and lead to depression or anxiety, but it also leads to cognitive decline. This doesn’t mean telling everyone that you are stressed but just making some time in your life for some meaningful time with another human being.
- Take regular exercise. I know it's our business at CST but there is a whole pool of research showing us that exercise is as good for our mental health as talking therapies. Find your thing. Do it with a friend. Please ask us if you struggle with this. There are benefits to be had with only 10 minutes walking daily. The ultimate aim is for 90 minutes of something vigorous weekly. Outside if possible. Check out Nicola’s sessions on our Youtube page.
- Use breathwork through the day to help lower your noradrenaline levels and immediately feel the calming effect. Very rarely is there something in medicine that works instantaneously, but breathwork does. Speak to Lucy for some additional advice on this and try out some of her videos on our Youtube page.
- Tap into some positive mindset benefits. Keep a gratitude journal daily - write just 3 things that you are grateful for and consider why. Use a positive mantra, “I am calm”, “I am focused”, just repeating positive statements to ourselves can reduce stress. Reach out and help others. Say thank you. These positive mindset tips rewire our brains and switch on positive pathways.
- Prioritise your sleep. I can’t say enough about this! Watch our videos for more information on this. I know it’s not easy for many of us.
- Think about what you are consuming. Try and reduce stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and excess screen time. Try and reduce depressants such as alcohol and processed food.
I hope this list is helpful. There is nothing here that is strange or startling and sometimes just pausing and taking some time to look at our life and what is stressing us is enough to make the rest fall into place. As ever please contact us if you want any help with dealing with your stress.
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