Tips to tackle stress

Feeling stressed? Three counsellors and a life coach share their advice for coping with stress

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

In a recent survey of over 1,000 Happiful Magazine subscribers increased stress levels, and concerns for mental health over the winter months, topped the list of worries. With so much uncertainty ahead, it’s understandable for people to be feeling overwhelmed right now. But there are practical steps you can take to help unload some of your worries. Here, four experts share their advice to help you tackle stress.

What is the source of your stress?

According to the recent Happiful survey, concern around family and relationships was the top cause of stress (56.8%), followed by health worries (54.2%) and general work pressures (53.9%). Of course, many factors could be contributing to your stress but, in order to tackle the problem, it’s important to pinpoint the main source.

Counsellor and executive coach Christina Johnson encourages you to ask yourself whether you are feeling overwhelmed or being overwhelmed. This can help you to distinguish whether you have too much to do or if, instead, you are actually being overwhelmed by other situations. Understanding which it is can help determine the best way to tackle it in the moment.

“Is the overwhelm coming from task overload, or is there a relationship component?” asks Christina. “If there’s simply too much to do, then there are lots of things you can do to address that – for example, negotiate deadlines, ask for support or help from those around you; now could be a good time to hone your delegation skills.  

“If you are being overwhelmed by something or someone else, it’s important to think about boundaries, and what you need to do to create a sense of feeling centred and able to hold your ground.”

Prioritise self-care

Taking proper care of yourself can be one of the last things you prioritise when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed but counsellor Billie Dunlevy argues that this is where you need to start, in order to feel better about your situation and how to cope with it.

The term ‘self-care’ might be something you associate with specific acts, such as lighting a candle, or having a bath, but it really is so much more than that. It’s also important to consider that your self-care needs might change, depending on how you feel each day.

Remember that these times we’re living through are anything but normal, so we can’t necessarily expect our usual acts of self-care to be enough. “We are living through collectively stressful times, and many of our ordinary coping strategies are not working for us,” says Billie. So, now might be the time to look beyond your usual self-care toolbox and try other methods to help you regain a sense of wellbeing.

Think about what’s helped you in the past

Although you might not like thinking back to the first lockdown, life coach Rachel Coffey suggests it might be helpful to review it. “It is really helpful to take a look back and be honest with ourselves about how we felt at different points during the last lockdown.”

Consider the following:

  • What drained your energy or made days harder?
  • Which things did you secretly enjoy?
  • Who or what made you happy?
  • What kind of communication helped you?
  • What kinds of people or information supported and enlightened you – rather than raised more anxiety or frustration?

“Understanding how all of these things can be managed can really help us create more of the good times and fewer of the stressful ones,” says Rachel.

Try grounding exercises

Counsellor Louise Leighton says that breathing exercises and grounding techniques can work well when suffering high anxiety or panic attacks. “Grounding simply means returning your focus back to the present,” says Louise. “It works by ridding your body of excess energy, calming and slowing down the emotions you are feeling and calming your mind, to allow you to connect back with yourself in the present.” Louise suggests you try the following exercise which uses all five of your senses to help you relax and ease stress.

5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and then release it slowly. Open your eyes and look around you, slowly taking in your surroundings.

Name out loud:

  • Five things you can see.
  • Four things you can touch.
  • Three things you can hear.
  • Two things you can smell.
  • One thing you can taste.

Then take a deep breath, release it, and end the process.

When we are in the midst of a particularly intense period of stress, things can seem hopeless and overwhelming. But, no matter how big your worries are feeling, knowing that these feelings are temporary – that you may just need a little help and support to get through to the other side – can help you to begin to see things more clearly.

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