|Image by wisteriasweb. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License|
I just got back from the doctors after a couple of months of not feeling myself - poor sleep, pains that wouldn't go away and other random symptoms. Within a minute, the doctor nodded her head decisively and announced I was suffering from stress.
It was a surprise to me! After my last teaching practice finished in December, I thought I'd be done with stress - it was the most stressful time in my life, in which I worked 80 hour weeks and decided on a total career change from teacher to independent author. However, the doctor said that actually no, stress can be hard to shift.
Your body can be so upset by times of high stress that it can take months for normality to return.
To live a productive, happy and healthy life, I need to beat my stress! But it got me thinking about how stressful life can be on a daily basis.
So here are my top 15 favourite ways to beat stress, that I'll be using and applying to get myself back into tip-top shape.
1) Determine what's causing the stress.
This has to be number one. How can you begin to address the problem or stress if you don't know what's causing it? Figure out why you're stressed - then you can take action to solve that as well as the stress. If you just focus on reducing stress/negative emotions without fixing underlying problems, the stress will return.
2) Take control
There's always a solution to a problem, and you have the power to control it. If you're feeling stuck, chances are that someone else has encountered your problem. Talk to a friend about how you can address it - or hop onto Google to see if you can find ideas. (n.b. if it's health related - go see a doctor/ medical professional. Self diagnosing is not recommended.)
Exercise is proven to not only lead to good physical health, but also good mental health, by releasing endorphins which reduce stress and increase feelings of well being. Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will help to clear your thoughts and reduce negative emotions.
4) Eat well
Eating poorly can damage your health - both physically and mentally. Eating well, so enough food from the main food groups, can help your body and therefore your mind feel better. Goodbye binge/comfort/stress-eating!
5) Avoid bad habits
Smoking, drinking, drugs, caffeine - anything that helps you 'cope' with the stress. These just mask the stress temporarily, but don't help you address the root cause and fix it.
6) Accept that some situations are beyond control
I thought there was a solution to every problem? Well there is - but sometimes, things are beyond your control. By accepting that, you can reduce the stress and concentrate on what you do have control over.
7) Find the positives
Things may seem hard, there might not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel - but I bet that when you think about it, you have an awful lot to be thankful for. Do you have a roof over your head? Food on the table? A warm, safe place to live? A loving family? A good support network of friends? A job you enjoy? Whatever it is that you have, appreciate it. Even by thinking each day of three things you're grateful for, you can boost positive emotions.
8) Have some downtime
Whether you work 8 hours or 80 hours a week, you need some time to yourself to relax and recharge in whatever way is best for you. For me, it's a scented candlelit bubble bath with a cup of tea and good book. Aaah. Bliss! Having 'me time' releases those feelgood emotions, and helps you lose the tension in your body that stress can cause.
9) Deep breaths
They really do help! Taking deep breaths, or even trying meditation or yoga techniques can help beat stress. Deep breaths reduce cortisol the stress hormone and temporarily lower your blood pressure.
10) Laugh your way through it
Laughter and smiling reduces stress and increases feelings of well being. Go to a comedy gig, hang out with your friends, or watch something funny on TV to cheer up.
Listening to your favourite tunes can have a calming effect, lowering anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate. It's hard to feel stressed when your favourite music gets your foot tapping and your head nodding!
12) Get a massage
Ok, so this one can be pricey, but massages are a fantastic way to release the physical tension in your body, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
13) Get creative
Art is therapeutic! 'nuff said.
14) Start a journal
Writing down your feelings is a great way to vent the frustration through reflecting on your experiences.
15) Be kind
This might sound a bit odd, but altruism is a stress beater too! By helping others, you can often boost your own emotions too.
I hope that helps you beat stress in your life. Now, I'm off to go beat mine.