Panicked by your long to-do list? Anxious about balancing on the balls on your plate RN? Worrying about if that presentation will impress, or if your boss will say yes to your ask for a raise? Often we can’t change the cause of our stress, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on managing it. Start with these coping strategies.
You might be sick of being told to focus on your breathing, but it’s important. Stress and anxiety activate your body’s fight or flight response, resulting in shallow breathing and an increased heart-rate. Try breathing in your belly by taking slow breaths in through your nostrils for four counts (while expanding your belly, rest your hands on it to be sure you’re doing it correctly) and four counts out your nose. At first your mind will still be racing but by focusing on your breathing method you are being present, not worrying about the past or future like stress causes you to do.
Remind yourself that just because you think something doesn’t make it true
When you’re stressed, you tend to play negative thoughts about yourself over and over in your head. Remember that your thoughts are not facts; just because you think you’re an ‘idiot’ or ‘always wrong’ or ‘not good enough’ doesn’t make it true. It can be helpful to know that the mean voice in your head is purely a result of your stressed-out state of mind. Practice this: when these thoughts come your way visualise them as cars passing you by. You can acknowledge them, wave at them, but ultimately they drive away. By recognising the thoughts instead of trying to fight them your mind can have a bit of peace.
Something we always put on our New Year’s Resolutions lists but rarely stick to is to get into meditation. The benefits of meditation are infinite, but it’s hard to know where or how to start. Try a meditation app (we like Headspace) which will guide you through the art of being calm and quiet.
Keep some lavender close by
The scent of lavender is naturally calming so keep some form of it in your handbag at all times. Add a few drops of lavender oil to your pillowcase before bed, in your bath for extra relaxation, or massage into your temples for relief from a stress-induced headache.
Give yourself a reality check
When you’re anxious, your thoughts usually aren’t rational so it’s handy to put your worries through a reality test. This concept was devised by Freud and seeks to look at your thoughts rationally instead of emotionally (as we tend to do). Looking at your worry from as many angles as possible, being objective, imagining what you would say if someone else was having the same thoughts, and asking a friend for their opinion are all ways to reality test yourself. For example, if you’re stressing about what your boss thinks of your presentation, ask for some honest feedback from co-workers you trust, to try and level your fears of what your boss may be thinking.
It’s likely the cause of your stress is some form of modern life, be it the pressure of social media or the busy nature of your office. When you’re feeling on edge plan a trip to nature, and leave your phone behind. Instead of focusing on what you’re going to Instagram from your walk focus on living in the now. Can’t go away for long? Try alleviating stress immediately with a 10-minute coffee break or walk that removes you from a potentially stressful environment and gives you to time to pause and breathe.
Cut out caffeine
When we’re worried about work-related issues we tend to reach for another cup of coffee to give us an energy boost (and pray it helps our productivity, too). Stress is already causing your heart to beat faster, so palpitation-inducing coffee is definitely not what you need right now. Even worse, if you take sugar with your coffee, that’ll stimulate your adrenals even more. Sip on something calming like chamomile tea, and remember to take it slowly.
Do some exercise
Exercising is a natural quick fix for stress. Doing something that requires both your brain and your body to focus on being active means less time for obsessive thoughts, plus you get that endorphin rush afterwards!
If you experience crippling stress or anxiety, you need to see a professional. There are a variety of medically recognised anxiety disorders that you can’t just ‘self-fix’. Plus, if you’re suffering from a relevant disorder, there are anti-anxiety medications that can make your life feel so much easier.
Read more about heath.