How to beat stress

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 14 February 2008

Modern life demands we juggle many different responsibilities in our working and family lives: career progression, education concerns, childcare etc. While a certain amount of stress can be useful as a motivator, if it spirals out of control it can take a terrible toll on your physical and mental health, as well as on your relationships.

A physiological and psychological reaction
Trauma, crises, conflicts, excessive personal and professional demands and even day-to-day hassle can trigger stress, causing physical and emotional symptoms. Feelings of depression and anxiety are common, as well as headaches, fatigue, muscular tension, disturbed sleep, irritability, stomach upsets and frequent illness. Stress can even lead to more serious medical conditions such as heart attacks and clinical depression. It’s essential that you learn to spot the signs of stress and know how to handle it. Here are some tips to get you started.

Sleep
Its hard to work efficiently when you're tired... and that makes you stressed. If you feel sleepy, don't fight it just to watch the end of a TV programme. Give in to the call of your bed! Go to bed early, preferably at the same time evey night, and rise early. A good sleep pattern is important for your wellbeing during the day.

Exercise
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Swimming, jogging, aerobics or dance help fight stress by focusing on your body and calming your mind. Aim to exercise 2 to 3 times a week. Physical exertion is good for blood circulation, relieves muscular tension and releases the right dose of ‘happy chemicals,’ leaving you exhausted but happy!

Get organised
At home or at work, write a list of what you need to achieve during the day. Prioritise tasks in order of importance and tick them off when you’ve finished them. What seemed unsurmountable will seem less so when you tackle one task at a time. Time management is the key to managing stress.

Addictions
Get your addictions off your back. If you're getting through a packet of ciggies a day or relying on caffeine too much, the ‘poisons’ you're taking in to calm anxiety are actually stimulants that can generate even more anxiety. If you cannot do without, then at least try to cut down.

Diet
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet at all costs! Stress can cause raging hunger or complete loss of appetite. Ensure you have a good breakfast, have lots of vegetables in your lunch and a light dinner to help digestion before bed. Try to avoid snacking and eating on the go, establish fixed times for your meals and take time to enjoy them.
If you start to feel a little anxious in the middle of the afternoon, replace that chocolate bar with an apple or a yoghurt. Your nerves will be calmer and your figure will appreciate it too!

Work/home balance
Try to find the right work/home balance. Leave work at work and cut yourself off at home. Empty your mind and don't bring work home. You’ll do it better and faster with a clear head the following day. Take time to share moments with friends and family.

Let go
Cultivate the art of letting go! Whether at home, work or with friends, avoid conflict as much as possible. Avoid sensitive subjects and never-ending debates with friends, for example. Learn to take a step back from events, give up dwelling on things beyond your control and put things into perspective. Running late for a doctor's appointment or forgot something on your shopping list? The world isn't going to end, so chill out!!

Love life
It's a fact: making love is relaxing! Of course, when we're stressed our libido is affected. The only solution is to spend some time with your man and enjoy sex. You'll soon feel better.

Calmers
Another remedy for stress is homeopathy. The most common treatments include argentum nitricum for digestive problems, phosphorous to give you a boost, and sepia.

Zen attitude
Yoga, stretching and qi gong are excellent ways of easing the mind and improving breathing. Relaxed muscles and a good feeling of tiredness - there’s nothing better to calm the nerves. Sophrology, reflexology and acupuncture can also help you relax.

Take care of yourself
A session at a spa, a massage, a walk in the forest, and - finances permitting - a short spa break will all help to relieve the smptoms of stress. Treat yourself properly and you'll notice a change in your self-image and your ability to deal with stress.

Pamper yourself
Indulge yourself. Treat yourself to a nice meal out, a good film at the cinema or a new dress. They're great morale-boosters. And don’t forget to reward yourself for all your little successes!

Seek help
If stress becomes unbearable and spirals out of control, it's wise to see a specialist. Talk to your GP; some cognitive therapies can help you confront problems face on and help with time management, freeing you of obligations and freeing you from guilt.

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