The new year has just started, but there are already so many things for us to get stressed out about, from national issues such as crime and security and the sliding dollar, to personal issues such as relationships and bills. How do you manage the various challenges of life without losing your mind?
While a little stress can be good (it pushes us to stay alert, do our best and so on), too much can cause mental and physical health issues.
There are several different ways you can manage stress, and we’ve rounded up some of the best practical advice for you below.
Breathe and focus: Never underestimate the power of a deep, cleansing breath. Take deep breaths and allow your mind and body to relax. The first step in tackling a problem is to relax, focus and then assess the situation.
One step at a time: After you have assessed the situation, you can begin to come up with a plan to tackle the issue. Break down whatever the situation is and take it in stages. As you complete one step, move on to the next until you have successfully tackled the problem.
Take a break: It is perfectly alright to walk away from a stressful situation, even if it it for a moment. Take some time to clear your mind or distract yourself completely – exercise, watch a movie, read a book, go to the beach. Once you have calmed down, you will feel better going back to the situation.
Focus on solutions: Direct your thoughts along the line of solutions rather than ruminating on the problem. It might be tempting to have a pity party, or wallow in negative feelings, but that is destructive. The faster you can devise a solution, the faster you will be able to put the problem behind you.
Write it down: Many people find the process of writing down their thoughts and feelings cathartic. It can also help you figure out what’s really bugging you if you are confused. You can jot down the problem and possible solutions, make lists of pros and cons, the steps to take to overcome the situation, etc.
Find a hobby: Having something to do that you love is a great way to reduce stress.
Get or stay active: According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, as physical activity helps to increase endorphin production – your body’s own natural ‘high.’ Thus, it takes your mind off the problem, boosts your mood, increases self-confidence and reduces symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.
Change your diet: Another temptation when we’re stressed out is to eat for comfort, but don’t reach for that cupcake or tub of ice cream! Dr Tony Vendryes advises that you up your intake of healthy proteins like fish, soy beans, peas, nuts and eggs, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. Additionally, supplements such as Vitamins C, B Complex, B12, Niacin and D3 (from sunlight) help to fortify the nervous system from stress, and omega-3 and magnesium stabilise our nerve reactions. Herbs such as St Johns Wort, valerian, Tang Quei and Ginseng have the ability to naturally calm and strengthen our nerves without the dangerous side effects of drugs.
Get some sleep: When you are tired, you are more prone to the negative effects of stress. You are less focused, less patient and more easily agitated. If you can’t ‘think straight,’ you won’t be able to figure out the solution to the problem you may be facing.
Get emotional support: If you have chronic stress-related issues, such as panic attacks, it is a good idea to speak to a counsellor or psychiatrist who can help you work through your situation. You can also turn to your religious leader or family members and friends for advise and practical help.