April has been observed as Stress Awareness Month since 1992. During the month, health care professionals increase their efforts to keep the public informed about the dangerous mental and physical effects prolonged stress can have on their lives. This public education campaign is vital, especially in light of the current challenges facing most countries worldwide, many of which have trickle-down effects that adversely impact everyday men and women.
We don’t claim to be health care experts, but we are certainly experienced in bringing you information you need, so this Tip Thursday, we share with you seven easy steps to reduce stress in your life or change how you react to stressful situations.
- Keep a positive attitude. That’s easier said than done, you might say, but think about it: How often do we drive ourselves crazy by worrying about circumstances outside of our control or make a bad situation worse by getting angry, defensive or scared? Learn to regulate your thoughts and reactions. Instead of panicking, take a step back and assess the situation to find out if there are practical steps you can take to resolve or alleviate the problem and proceed from there.
- Move your body, free your mind. We’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating: regular exercise is not only good for maintaining a healthy weight; it also helps you feel better. That rush you feel after a good workout is caused by endorphins, nature’s very own pain and stress relievers. The problem might still be there after your run, walk or Zumba class, but you will have a new energy that might just help you come up with the right solution.
- Eat well, feel good. Many of us turn to junk and comfort foods when we are stressed, then feel even worse when we realise we have overeaten – and the situation is still there! Instead, complement your new exercise plans with a better diet. This will help keep your energy levels high and fuel you to face down the challenges.
- Relax, refresh, restore. Learn some easy relaxation techniques and practise them whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed. Popular practices include meditation, yoga and t’ai-chi. If these are not for you or you are religious, spend some quite time in prayer to help clear your mind.
- Set necessary boundaries. Sometimes our stress comes from always biting off more than we can chew. Learn to say no (politely, of course) to unreasonable demands on your time. It’s fine to work overtime occasionally, or take on added responsibilities, but ensure that you don’t take on so many projects that you become overwhelmed and overworked.
- Get a hobby. We all know the adage about all work and no play, so make time to indulge in activities and interests that bring you pleasure, whether it’s dancing, karaoke, gardening, playing a musical instrument, photography, hiking – the list is endless. Don’t have a hobby? Pick something that interests you and try it, even once.
- Sleep it off. For many of us, sleep is the first thing to go whenever we are stressed out. However, it is essential that the body is allowed to rest as prolonged lack of sleep can adversely affect the brain, heart and vital functions. You can use some of the relaxation tips mentioned earlier to help you unwind and get ready for some shut-eye, or come up with your own bedtime routines.
What are some of your favourite de-stressing tips or routines? Share them with us.