We all need a level of stress in order to be healthy. From time to time, everyone can feel sad, depressed, anxious, tense or afraid. These are common and natural human emotions.
But sometimes these feelings can become so overwhelming that coping with day-to-day life – work, leisure, and relationships – becomes difficult.
How to deal with stress
Everyone deals with stress in different ways. You need to find a method of dealing with your stress that works for you as an individual. You can’t always prevent stress, but there are lots of things you can do to manage stress better.
Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties. You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response. Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.
Methods to help deal with stress:
- Be active and ensure you have a good diet – exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly.
- Accept the things you can’t change – changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.
- Take control – the act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
- Connect with people – a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
- try mindfulness – studies have found mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve your mood
- use calming breathing exercises
- Have some me time – make more time for your interests and hobbies
- Take a break or holiday
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
When to get help
Seek assistance if you:
- Experience a marked decline in work/school performance.
- Have excessive anxiety.
- Misuse alcohol or drugs.
- Are unable to cope with demands of daily life.
- Have irrational fears.
- Have an obsessive preoccupation with food and fear of becoming obese with no relationship to actual body weight.
- Experience significant change in sleeping or eating habits.
- Have persistent physical ailments and complaints.
- Have suicidal thoughts or urge to hurt others.
- Engage in self-mutilation, self-destructive, or dangerous behaviour.
- Have a sustained withdrawn mood or behaviour.
Your doctor can assess your symptoms and talk with you about what might be the best way for you to get treatment. That might mean taking medication, going to therapy or referring you to someone else who has specialist knowledge.
Your doctor can also help you work out a self-help programme and keep an eye on your progress along the way.
Go back to your doctor on a regular basis so that they can review your situation and think about whether to adjust or change your treatment. If there is no improvement your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or another mental health professional, and they might recommend hospital care.
Meditation is the practice of turning one’s attention to a single point of reference. It can help to deal with stress and involves focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase, known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means pivoting away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.
Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body.
Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.
In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.
Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises. Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.
Benefits of meditation
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood circulation
- Lower heart rate
- Less perspiration
- Slower respiratory rate
- Less anxiety
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- Less stress
- Deeper relaxation