Stress is a natural part of life. It is your body’s way of dealing with any kind of challenge or demand and works by switching on the sympathetic nervous system (which you might know better as the “fight or flight response”) to help mobilize your body and get you prepped and ready for action. A little bit of stress in life isn’t a bad thing – in fact, in energises us and motivates us to get important tasks done. Unfortunately, with our busy, high-pressure lives, we spend way too much time in a state of stress, which becomes taxing on our bodies and minds and eventually leads to burnout
Tips for handling stress
Make time in your life to do the things that are important to you, that move you towards your goals, and that help you live aligned with your values. It can be a good idea to write these tasks down in a calendar or diary – prioritizing the most important tasks. Don’t forget to include time to maintain the meaningful relationships in your life as well as time to relax and recharge. Sometimes just setting yourself three achievable tasks to do per day can give you a sense of purpose and reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm.
You only have so many hours in the day and sometimes that means saying no to things that don’t align with your values or that you don’t have the time or energy to take on. We can often take on tasks to avoid disappointing others or feel accepted. Practice saying “no” to requests that are unreasonable and that will overwhelm you. To help get clear on what is and what isn’t reasonable, chat to a close friend or therapist. As yourself “What is reasonable?” given where you’re at and the situation at hand.
Understand that stress can make you more sensitive in reacting to others and more inclined to take things personally. When other people are stressed, they can also act irrationally or unkindly – it’s not personal. Normalise expressing and discussing your thoughts and feelings with other people – particularly if those people are at the source of your stress and agitation. Communication can help to defuse anger and frustration and air out tensions, so that they don’t turn into long-term grudges, contempt and resentment.
Thinking about past experiences which in turn, trigger feelings of guilt, remorse and regret cannot change anything, and they make the present difficult by affecting your mood and sapping your energy. Develop a more mindful relationship with your thoughts and feelings, so that you’re better able to notice when certain unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable emotions arise. Learn to forgive yourself for past mistakes. If you find yourself dwelling on a situation that makes you feel angry, sad or guilty, try not to ruminate on this situation or desperately try to push the feelings away. Instead, simply acknowledge and label the emotion, “I’m feeling sad right now, and that’s ok” which can help diffuse it’s power over you. Healthy distractions can also be useful, like moving your body, connecting with a friend, or doing something fun and immersive.
Get clear on events, situations or relationships that leave you emotionally drained. Can you reduce or eliminate any of these from your life at all? If you can’t, take the opportunity when they show up, to practice your stress reduction techniques, keeping notes on what types of techniques are the most effective and useful in which situations.
Helpful stress reduction techniques
This is where you press pause on everything that’s going on inside and outside your head and allow yourself to be present in the moment, without making any judgements, good or bad.
Notice 5 Things
This little mindfulness exercise can help you centre yourself, engage your senses and connect with your immediate environment. Practice it regularly – particularly in moments when you feel yourself getting hijacked by overwhelming or stressful thoughts or feelings.
Pause for a moment.
Look around and notice five things you can see. Name them.
Listen carefully and notice four things you can hear. Name them.
Notice three things you can feel – against your skin or body. Notice two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
For one whole minute, close your eyes and notice your breathing. Focus your full attention, allowing your focus to drift back to the breath when it inevitably wanders. Feel your breath as it comes in through the nostrils. Notice how your chest and belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
Concentrate on soaking in the present moment as you walk. Feel the ground under your feet, notice your breathing. See the colours and textures that surround you, notice any sounds filling the space, and smells in the air. Give yourself permission to be fully absorbed in the world around you.
Set aside time each day for healthy food and exercise. These are not lucky bonuses, they are essential tools to ward off burnout and keep your body and mind healthy.
Gentle, low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling are good to relieve stress. Meditation, yoga and dance are also powerful stress busters. The trick is to find a workout that suits you best that you can commit to regularly. Remember, something is better than nothing, so even making time for a 15-min walk or a 10-min stretch a few times a week can have awesome benefits.
Intentionally eating a healthy diet, packed full of water, fresh fruit and vegetables does wonders for the body and mind. Also, be mindful of how much you’re reaching for the caffeine, drugs, alcohol and junk food. Try to make some of your mealtimes a mindful experience, where you take your time and allow yourself to be present with your food and enjoy its tastes and textures.
Hobbies that focus your attention and allow you to be fully immersed and “in flow” are also great stress relievers. Take up a new activity, unrelated to work – something that gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Also make a list of activities that soothe and relax you – whether it’s going for a walk, watching a favourite tv show, listening to a record or having a warm shower. Allow these activities to be your go-to’s when you need to wind down and quiet your busy mind.
OK, WHAT NOW?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, it can be useful to –
- Ask for help and recognise when you might be struggling. Reach out to family and friends, or find yourself a support group where people might be facing similar struggles.
- Find a mental health practitioner that’s right for you (ask around, get on Google, or ask your GP for recommendations)
- Call the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline on 1800 959 500
ARTICLES about STRESS
TOP 3 PODCASTS
How to Manage Acute Stress | 10 MIN
The Mindful Kind
The Mindful Kind is a podcast that equips listeners with effective strategies to navigate their busy lives better. Short but effective, each episode leaves you with actionable advice to incorporate within your day.
Listen to The Mindful Kind here
The Dutch art of doing less to release stress and achieve more with Olga Mecking | 46 MIN
Mental – The Podcast to Destigmatise Mental Health
Mental – The Podcast To Destigmatise Mental Health was created by co-host Bobby Temps to break down mental health stigma and encourage other bring attention to staying mentally healthy. This episode explores when less is more, by following a wellness trend asking us to do less and achieve more.
Listen to Mental -The Podcast to Destigmatise Mental Health podcast here
Wait! Am I Burning Out? | 23 MIN
The Pineapple Project
Claire Hooper wants to know what burnout is, With Professor Gordon Parker, this episode teaches you to recognise the warning signs and set plans to get back on track.
Listen to The Pineapple Project here
TOP 3 BOOKS
TOP 3 APPS
Tide: Sleep, Focus, Meditation.
Tide integrates sleep meditation, relaxation and focus into one app.
With a bunch of different audio and soundscapes to explore while helping you relieve stress, stay focused, and relax.
Free on iOs and Android
Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app that encourages users to take 10 minutes each day to be mindful. The app provides short mediations designed to reduce stress, improve sleep, concentration and overall wellbeing and leaves a smile on your mind.
Free on iOs and Android
VIDEOs about managing stress
Holly Norman, yoga for stress relief