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3 ways to manage stress

Stress – we all feel it right? If we asked you how you’ve felt over the past couple of years, you might very well describe your mental state as stressed. That’s because stress is our natural reaction to new, demanding or challenging situations – and boy have we had some of those recently! 

When we feel stressed we release all kinds of hormones (chemicals that send messages all over our body) to prepare us to deal with a challenge or threat. This causes physical reactions such as increased heart rate, nausea, sweating or muscle tension – which are helpful, but also sometimes very annoying or scary. These reactions are perfectly fine if they are appropriate to the situation, but when we are triggered too easily, or we experience too many stressful things at the same time, stress can become harmful to our health.

Whilst stress can be motivating (by helping us finish that task we’ve been putting off for days or weeks) and protect us from potential danger, too much of it can negatively affect our physical and mental health. Taking note of some of the things that cause you to feel stressed (like work, family life, illness/injury or relationships), and tuning in to your body’s response in stressful situations can help. Otherwise, here are 3 helpful ways we have found to manage our stress a little better.


 

1) Set boundaries

Have you ever said yes to something that you really didn’t want to do, or didn’t have the time for at that very moment? You probably said yes because you didn’t want to let someone down, thought it would make you look like a good person/partner/employee, or simply because it’s a habit you’ve gotten into. But saying yes all the time can be really stressful, and we have to learn how to say no sometimes (in the politest possible way).

Boundaries are the line between what is acceptable to us and what is unacceptable – and they look different for every person. Learning how to say no to something that exceeds your capacities (resources, time, effort) not only protects you from stress, but is also an act of self-care.

Next time you need to set a limit with someone, instead of automatically saying yes, try this:

– Acknowledge the other person -> “I really enjoy hanging out with you ..”

– Set the boundary -> ” .. but I really need time to myself sometimes.”

– Make a compromise -> “Maybe we can set up a weekly catch up instead?”

2) Move your body regularly

Ugh exercise .. We can just about see your eyes rolling into the back of your head from here. We’re sure you’ve heard it before – exercise helps reduce stress. Well, (unfortunately for some), it really does. Remember those hormones we mentioned before? That’s how exercise reduces stress – by reducing levels of stress hormones and increasing levels of endorphins in the body (chemicals that naturally kill pain and elevate mood). Exercise also reduces muscle tension, improves sleep and increases energy  – all of which contribute to reducing the level of stress we experience in our daily lives.

But we know that getting into regular exercise can be really difficult (and sometimes it feels impossible), so starting with any movement of the body will help. To make it easier, we’ve put together a list of activities you might like to try to get your body moving on a regular basis.

– Walking the dog (or cat?)

– Stretching, yoga or pilates

– Dancing around the house to your favourite music

– Cleaning

– Practicing a sport

– Swimming at the local pool or beach

– Taking phone calls standing up or moving around

3) Schedule down time

In a society which values dedication, hard work and making money, taking time off might feel like a crime. Just like most of us, you’ve probably done your fair share of overtime at work, and felt the negative effects of it later. We’re basically programmed to work as much as possible, to get ahead, and to buy the things society tells us will make us cool, interesting or attractive – so when is there ever time for rest? 

When we don’t give ourselves time to rest and recuperate, our brains cannot function properly and we actually sell ourselves short (in more ways than one). In order to optimise our wellbeing in the long run, reduce stress, and improve our performance, having work-life balance is important. While even the idea of being unproductive can be scary, it seems the benefits of regular down time outweigh those fears. In such a busy world, now is a better time than ever to prioritise your down time and work it into your schedule every day.

– Stop working through your lunch break

– Schedule regular days off where you can

– Set yourself a goal for during your down time (ie relaxation, rest or recovery)

– Don’t sacrifice activities that make you feel calm/relaxed

– Give yourself permission to rest (this might mean reframing your idea of productivity)

Related tips – https://www.facebook.com/psychyarravalley

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