How to manage stress
As a student and at work, things can get a bit stressful. Whilst being under pressure is a normal part of life, it can be difficult when stress gets overwhelming. Mind, the UK mental health charity has a lot of resources for support and guidance when stress can get too much.
Although stress cannot always be prevented, there are a number of ways stress can be managed, from reviewing how you are spending your time, to implementing stress-busting activities into your daily life. Most importantly you should take time to learn what works best for you and identify your long-term stress management solutions.
We have pulled together some suggestions and ideas about how you may want to try to manage your stress better.
It can be challenging to try to fit everything into your day, and every now and then it can be worth taking stock of how you are spending your time and reflecting on how it makes you feel. Taking this time may help you to feel more in control of your days.
Implementing stress-relieving practices
Stress-relieving practices are things you can do to alleviate some of the daily stress you experience. These can be little, short activities or more grand solutions.
Mindfulness & taking time to breathe
It can be easy to get caught up in being ‘always on’ with the pinging of a mobile phone, another email and another assignment due… tomorrow!
There are lots of small things that can be implemented every day to support mindfulness, but there are some guided and group mindfulness practices, such as yoga and tai-chi which can support you in creating awareness.
Breathing exercise can be a calming technique for stress, anxiety, and panic; this can be done anywhere and can take a few minutes. The NHS has some recommended breathing exercises and there are some apps in smartphones and wearables, which provide some guided breathing exercises which can help put things in perspective.
Talking to family and friends
Humans are social creatures, and speaking to friends and family can rationalise and alleviate some of the stress you are feeling. As they say “A problem shared is a problem halved”. A few scientific studies, such as one from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, have found that there are many benefits to sharing your feelings. The researchers found that stress levels were significantly reduced when the participants were able to vocalise how they felt.
Take a break, or even better take a holiday
When it all gets too much, sometimes the best solution is to remove yourself from the situation for a while. Take a holiday (a staycation or something more exciting) to provide different scenery which can help to provide a different perspective on things.
Taking a break can also be as simple as taking your full lunch break, to ensure you are making time to eat well and perhaps fit in a lunchtime walk to get some fresh air.
Give yourself time to relax. It is important to learn what your personal balance is between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself: this can really reduce stress levels. Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care. Are you needing some time out but saying 'I just can't take the time off'? This can be an indicator that this is the exact time you should be taking a break.
Nourish your body
Exercise is the miracle cure that is free, but we often neglect to take our recommended dose. According to the UK NHS, “People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.”
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day. For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around. However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you feel even healthier.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
Sleep is a weird but wonderful thing. Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime routines, which may not be much of a problem for most people but for those with insomnia - which can be exacerbated by stress - irregular sleeping hours are unhelpful. Your routine depends on what works for you, but the most important thing is working out a routine and sticking to it.
Winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed, and a number of resources can advise on what winding down solutions there are. For example, your bedroom should be a relaxing environment. Experts claim there's a strong association in people's minds between sleep and the bedroom.
Winding down thoughts
As mentioned in the book ‘Burnout’ by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, some people may benefit from completing the ‘stress cycle’ which has 7 stages: physical activity, breathing, positive social interactions, laughter, affection, crying and creative expression. Completing these cycles can reduce stress and prevent burnout.
If you are finding yourself in a time of crisis, speak to your tutor, manager, or call a helpline for further support. There is a student support page on HN Global with some helpful links, though please note these are currently for the UK only.