Mind's Top Insights on How To Stress Less
Stress can effect any of us, at any time. We sit down with Tyneside and Northumberland Mind to discover some essential tips and tricks to help eliminate stress at work and at home
‘Stress is inevitable, and the right level of stress can even be a good thing as it can help us “perform”, but when stress levels get too high, that’s when it becomes problematic,’ says Lisa. ‘Living a less stressful life helps us to sleep better, eat better, get sick less often, or if we do get sick then less stress helps us heal quicker,’ she explains. ‘A stress-free life helps us be in a better mood, having a knock-on effect in terms of our relationships and therefore helping us get along better with family and friends as well.’
Stress can have odd effects on the body, but it is important to monitor your stress by learning to recognise the varying symptoms.
‘There are so many symptoms of stress, but the most common are constant worrying, your mind racing with thoughts, being forgetful and unable to focus, and generally feeling pessimistic. It can also leave you feeling unable to make decisions and unable to concentrate,’ Lisa continues. ‘Stress also manifests in physical ways and some of the most common symptoms physically are increased heart rate, shoulder, neck or back pain, general body aches and pains, and gastrointestinal problems.’
Ways of relieving stress are personal to the individual. Some may prefer to read, unwind with friends, soak in a hot bath, swim in cold water, or even dance around the kitchen, whereas others may prefer going out socialising or pumping iron in the gym. The most important thing is to experiment to find what works for you, as Lisa explains.
‘There are many techniques to better manage stress, it’s important to find what works for you as we’re all different,’ she says. ‘Take some time out to relax and take care of yourself – even if you can devote only five to 15 minutes a few times a day, take a break from it all,’ Lisa continues. ‘Getting quality sleep also helps us to be more mentally healthy to manage the day ahead. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, connect with others, do something fun, take up a hobby. Whatever you do, make that time for yourself. These are all fairly simple things that help us to keep our balance.
‘For me, I usually go for a run or to the gym. Other things I do sometimes when I’m stressed might be to take a book to read in a candlelit bath,’ says Lisa. ‘Having some “me time” to unwind or doing an activity to help distract me from the stress are my go-to.’
Physical activity is an especially good stress reliever thanks to exercise’s ability to accelerate the brain’s production of endorphins – our feel-good neurotransmitters. Exercise also pushes back against the physical body pain that stress can manifest.
‘Stress can lead to headaches, upset stomach, nausea, aches, pains, tense muscles, chest pain and a rapid heartbeat. We can be more susceptible to frequent colds and infections as well,’ explains Lisa. ‘Our lifestyles can also become more unhealthy, in terms of not exercising as much, some people might smoke cigarettes or drink more alcohol which can also lead to other health issues.’
The results of unmanaged stress are clearly negative, but sometimes we find ourselves in stressful situations where we don’t have the luxury of running a bath or nipping for a jog. When you find yourself overwhelmed at work, it is always best to tell an appropriate member of staff.
‘If you suspect or know that a colleague is experiencing work-related stress, find a quiet moment to tactfully and sensitively ask them how they are. They may not want to talk, but you can let them know that you’re there if they ever do want to chat,’ says Lisa. ‘If they do open up, listen without judgment. Just knowing that someone is listening can go a long way toward easing the burden of stress. It’s not always easy for us to realise in ourselves when we’re stressed and/or heading towards burnout, so any helpful conversation could go a long way.
‘When you’re fighting the exhausting uphill battle against your own feelings, it can seem as if talking about it is the least productive thing you can do – but it’s not. If you ever need someone to talk to, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind offer a support line that is open 8am–10pm seven days a week. The support line provides easy access to mental health and wellbeing information to anyone aged 16 and over living in Gateshead, Newcastle and Northumberland.’
For more tips on how to deal with stress, go to tynesidemind.org.uk or call 0191 477 4545 / 0330 174 3174.