Dealing with stress: self help techniques
Family or relationship issues, work insecurity, moving house or just a steady build-up of smaller worries… Ignore stress and, in the long run, it can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety and, in some cases, even depression. So whatever has sent your stress levels soaring, it’s time to take action with some tips from the experts.
- “Eat regular meals and try to make sure your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, plus protein and complex carbohydrates, which release their energy slowly,” said Jacqui Lowdon, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “This will keep your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn will help you to think more clearly.”
- Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids, such as water, juice and herbal teas. Even being mildly dehydrated can negatively affect your mood.
- Exercise has been proven to give your mental wellbeing a boost and help reduce stress levels. A brisk walk, a bike ride, even a vigorous gardening session can all help. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (that means your heart rate is raised and you feel slightly out of breath) a day, ideally outside if you can.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This will help programme your body to feel sleepy at the same time. At bedtime, wind down gently, avoiding TV programmes, books and other activities that will set your mind racing.
- Try to make a daily, realistic to-do list, which arranges your priorities in order of importance. Then tackle your tasks one at a time, and don’t begin anything else until each is finished. If you try to do too many things at once, you're more likely to get in a muddle, accomplish less and end up more stressed.
- Simple relaxation exercises can help to restore calm at any time of the day. “Try breathing in through your nose, with your mouth closed, to the count of three or four, then breathing out to the count of six or eight (still with your mouth closed),” says hypnotherapist Lynda Hudson. “This is called ratio breathing: it’s very good for relieving stress and calming you down.”
- Don’t be scared to ask for help. Your GP will be used to seeing patients with stress-related problems and can give you advice on self-help techniques. If you’re really struggling, your doctor may suggest a talking therapy, mindfulness or a similar treatment. Members of benenden health can also call the Psychological Wellbeing 24/7 Helpline.