This April marks National Stress Awareness Month in the UK. Stress is a natural part of life that all of us experience at one time or another. However, when the feeling of pressure becomes too unbearable and consuming, it can affect your physical and mental health.
Work is one of the most common causes of stress and only 1% of employees claim they never get stressed at work. It’s not possible to completely eliminate stress from your life, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress that work for you. Ignoring it is not the answer and likely to make it worse.
A good starting point when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed is to ask yourself the following questions:
What is causing the problem?
When is it affecting me?
How can I change things?
Whilst it’s not always possible to immediately change things that are causing you stress, such as your job or family, there are some ways you can manage stress levels in a healthy way. We’ve listed 10 useful tips for you below to try and see what works for you.
1. Get active
Exercise won’t make stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, helping to clear your mind and think more clearly. Exercise can be anything that increases your heart rate and gets your blood pumping.The more you enjoy it, the more beneficial it will be.
2. Have some ‘me’ time
Employees in the UK work the longest hours in Europe. We simply don’t spend enough time doing the things we enjoy. Aim to do something you like at least two nights a week.
3. Help other people
There is clear evidence to show helping people makes us feel happier. Taking time to support others can put our own worries in perspective.
4. Work smarter, not harder
Learn to prioritise effectively. Train yourself to concentrate on the things you really need to do and accept that you may never have an empty in-tray.
5. Accept the things you can’t change
No one can be in total control of their lives. Things happen that are out of your control. For example, if you’ve been made redundant, it’s out of your hands. Instead of worrying about this, concentrate on what happens next, which you can be proactive about.
6. Get some fresh air
Getting a lung-full of fresh air feels good. It generally contains more oxygen which helps your circulation.The more oxygen you have in your blood, the more your heart can relax and work more effectively.
7. Eat stress-relieving foods
The key nutrients your body needs to help manage stress are vitamin C, magnesium, B vitamins. Foods like green vegetables, legumes and berries can all help relieve stress.
8. Chew gum or eat something crunchy
The simple act of chewing is calming for most people as it helps to reduce cortisol levels. Eating foods like carrots, nuts and crackers can have the same effect.
9. Have a good laugh
Laughing does wonders for the body. It produces endorphins, the body’s natural way to feel good. There is a lot to be said for “grinning and bearing it”. If you force yourself to smile, your brain will follow and you will be begin to feel better.
10. Sit up straight
There is evidence to suggest that sitting up straight will make you feel happier, probably as it helps your breathing and getting more oxygen to your brain. Conversely, the act of slouching seems to lower self-esteem. A simple tip to help you improve your posture is turning your palms upwards, it will naturally improve the way you sit.