5 Ways to Reduce Stress
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s something everyone feels at times and there are lots of stressful situations that are a perfectly normal part of daily life. Low-level stress can even be helpful, motivating us to achieve things and meet the demands of home, work and family.
But too much stress can impact our mood, our body and our relationships.
What Causes Stress?
Feelings of stress might be caused by one big thing (like losing your job, becoming a parent or a bereavement), but it can also result from a build-up of small pressures.
In general terms, stress is normally triggered by things happening in your life that involve:
- Lots of pressure
- Big changes
- Worry and uncertainty
- Not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
- Responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming
What are the Signs of Stress?
The first clues that we’re feeling stressed are often physical signs like tiredness, tension (particularly in our neck and shoulders), headaches or an upset stomach. When we feel stressed, we can find it hard to sleep or eat well, and poor diet and lack of sleep can both affect our physical health. This in turn can make us feel more stressed emotionally.
When we’re feeling anxious, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to a threat, sometimes called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. If you often feel stressed, you’re probably producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could affect your health in the longer term.
The mental health charity MIND describes some other common signs to look out for…
- Feeling irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
- Feeling over-burdened, anxious, nervous or afraid
- Feeling as if your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off
- Feeling unable to enjoy yourself
- Feeling depressed and/or uninterested in life
- Feeling like you’ve lost your sense of humour
- A lingering sense of dread
- Feeling worried about your health
- Feeling neglected or lonely.
How to Reduce Stress
So, what can we do to reduce stress and protect our mental and physical health? Here are a few tips to get you started…
- Break Big Tasks into Smaller Ones
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try breaking difficult tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Remember to give yourself credit and celebrate as you complete each one.
- Practice Gratitude
At the end of each day, try writing down two or three things you feel grateful for. Doing this strengthens the positive emotion muscles in our brains. It’s also a mindful practice that can help slow and settle your thoughts during times of stress.
- Be More Active
Being more active can help you burn off nervous energy. It may not eliminate stress completely, but it can make it feel less intense.
- Accept the Things You Can’t Change
It’s not always easy but accepting there are certain things you cannot control or change will help you focus your time and energy more productively.
- Talk to Someone
Talking about what you’re going through can be a big help. Reach out to trusted friends, family and colleagues. Confide in them and ask for help.
If you’ve been experiencing stress for some time and it’s affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further support. Find out how the team at Yorkshire Psychotherapy can help here.