Stress can be a killer, affecting us at work and in the home. This week in November has been designated International Stress Awareness Week in recognition of the dangers stress can cause to our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Stress relief is vital for our health and wellbeing and must not be underestimated in it’s importance. It’s not selfish to take a step back to focus on ourselves: it’s essential that we recognise those feelings of overwhelming anxiety, realise that they are not normal and then find ways to reduce them.
The demands of our day to day lives can often put a lot of pressure on us. Sometimes we are able to cope with this and take it in our stride but at other times the pressure builds up and causes stress.
Stress comes from feeling unable to cope with things, and it can be difficult to deal with. But it is vitally important to remember that there are things you can do to relieve it. It’s important to recognise the symptoms and adopt healthy coping methods for stress relief.
Here, on The Best of Health we like to return to this subject to highlight the dangers stress can cause to our health and wellbeing. So we would like to look at some possible ideas to provide an element of stress relief in our everyday lives.
Try some of these ideas for stress relief
Practising breathing exercises in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed is very relaxing. Sit in a comfortable chair which supports your head or lie on a bed, and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly, in a regular rhythm, gently filling up the whole of your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keep doing this until you feel calm.
Deep Muscle Relaxation
Using techniques which reduce muscle tension can really help with stress relief. Practising breathing exercises while you do so and playing soothing music can also be helpful here. There are a number of exercises you can do, focusing on different parts of the body:
- Face: Push your eyebrows together as though frowning, then release.
- Neck: Gently tilt your head forward, pushing your chin down towards your chest, then slowly lift again.
- Shoulders: Pull your shoulders up towards your ears as though shrugging, then relax them.
- Arms: Stretch your arms away from the body, reach, then relax.
- Legs: Push your toes away from your body, then pull them towards the body, then relax.
- Wrists and hands: Stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax.
Sometimes a bit of physical activity can be just as helpful as relaxation techniques. Simply taking a walk can be enough to reduce stress, but choose whichever form of exercise you enjoy the most, whether that’s running, cycling, swimming or a competitive sport like tennis if that is possible at the time.
Spending time in the great outdoors can have a hugely positive impact on our mental and physical health. In addition to helping reduce depression and anxiety, you may improve the quality of your sleep and your ability to concentrate on tasks, putting them into perspective and making them less daunting.
Exercise releases endorphins – mood-enhancing hormones which will help you cope better with stress. In addition, it relaxes tense muscles and tissues and by doing so, helps to relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches. Moderate or intense physical activity is also usually absorbing enough to put your problems out of your mind.
Exercise isn’t the only activity that can take your mind off stressors. A number of activities can be very soothing. Try taking up a hobby, such as gardening, or channel your emotions into creative activity, such as writing, art or crafts. Sometimes simply playing with your pet does a lot to relieve stress.
Taking a step away from your daily chores and errands to do something you take pleasure in can help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by stress.
Keep a Diary
Writing about your feelings can be a great way to manage them. Spend a bit of time each day writing about taxing events and why they’ve made you feel stressed. This can help you get to the root of what is generally causing your stress, and knowing this allows you to work out the best way to cope with it and prevent further stress.
Talk to Someone
Sometimes you just need to let your feelings out. Stress is often exacerbated when you bottle up your issues, so take the time to talk about them. Talk to a friend, relative, counsellor, member of the clergy, or anyone else who will listen and allow you to express your emotions. Communication is an easy and healthy way to relieve stress.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to avoid stress completely, but sometimes it’s inevitable. When you do become stressed, it’s important to resist unhealthy coping methods, such as smoking or drinking. Focus on finding quiet alone time to unwind, and engage in soothing activities which will combat your stress in a positive way.
If you would like more help and advice, a good place to start is the website of the mental health charity Mind
Alternatively, the International Stress Management Association website also has many useful ideas for stress relief.
Finally if you would like more helpful information regarding stress, click on this link to our earlier article: