Stress is a very unwelcome party guest indeed, stress can make us sleep poorly, breakout, feel emotional and ultimately not exist as the best version of ourselves.
We all encounter times of stress, some greater than others; today I am sharing 10 practical tips to handle stress, all of which I implement.
I’ve been implementing these tips in particular as I go through the ‘back to work cycle’ having returned from a few days of non blog-related business. Read on for my ‘how to handle stress’ tips, and I’d love to hear if you have any of your own! Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post ????????
. 10 PRACTICAL TIPS TO HANDLE STRESS .
1.Be aware of your own stress barometer. You are your own best judge when it comes to feeling stressed – some pressure can be good, and other times stress is only negative.
I used to be bad at gauging if the stress I was feeling was good (a little extra pressure for a deadline, for example) or bad, now I can quickly sense when my stress levels are veering in to negative territory. Once you recognise your own ‘stress limit’ you can begin to implement techniques to manage those feelings.
2.Step away. Simply, step away. When I am super stressed it can feel like my entire being exists in that very (super stressful!) moment. Of course, that moment is just that – a fragment of time – and it shall pass.
Whenever I feel that anxiety begin to bubble to dangerous levels, I put all ‘tools down’ and step away. Be it to make a cup of tea, call a friend or just breath. Speaking of . . .
3.Learn to breathe. I’m sure we’ve all been told “just breathe” when we’re caught in a moment of high emotion. When we are upset, we can fall in to a rapid ‘in, out, in out’ rhythm of breath which can perpetuate panic. If you find yourself wound up, try closing your eyes, and breathing for three deep breaths. I find that by the third breath I am already feeling calmer and more able to deal with a situation.
4.Eat regularly, and eat well. I find certain foods are emotional stimulants – coffee, tea, sugar – these can all contribute to higher levels of anxiety.
When I went through a period of high anxiety, right before I made the decision to leave London, I cut out coffee altogether. For someone that loves coffee, this was a big change for me, but I found that it helped regulate the ‘racing heart’ sensation I felt at times.
And don’t even get me started on not eating. Eating irregularly throws my body in to a tailspin, my blood sugar levels soar, and nose dive in equal measures. I aim to eat healthily and regularly all day. I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, with snacks in between. I find that it keeps my energy levels up, and my moods even.
I also make smart decisions, choosing fruit over sugar, nuts over crisps, and aiming for more protein and veg rather than white starchy food.
5.Develop a get-out plan. A lot of my personal feelings of stress, are perpetuated by a feeling of being ‘trapped’ in a situation. Now, I aim to develop a ‘get-out plan’ for any stressful situation I find myself in. Whatever situation you are in, it will not last forever, and you have 100% control over what you do, where you go and when. If you want ‘out’ that is always an option. There is no need to feel trapped, when I have a ‘get-out-plan’ in mind already, I almost never need to use it! I just feel soothed knowing that it is an option.
6.Exercise. It can be challenging to allocate time to exercise when you are already stretched with commitments, however being active can take as little or as long as you have.
For example – this morning I caught a train to London at 8.45, which meant leaving my house at 8.15. Factor in a shower, breakfast, getting ready (snoozing my alarm) and there was no way I was going to pack in an hour’s workout! I knew I had 15 minutes to exercise, and I took it. Rather than snoozing my alarm again, I pulled on the exercise gear I’d left laid out the evening before (thanks Tone It Up for the tip) and headed out my door. I got a 15 minutes jog in, some fresh air and I felt so much more awake for it. It allowed me some ‘me’ time, time away from devices, and fifteen minutes to burn some energy I would have otherwise carried with me in to a busy morning.
7.Have fun. Have F-U-N! We all make choices every day, one of the most important ones being ‘to be present and enjoy exactly what we are doing’. Every day will happen, and tomorrow is not a guarantee; I believe that finding fun in the little moments of every day, is key to exercising those make-happy vibes we all love. Fun is the antidote to stress.
8.Tell someone. When I was younger I prided myself on being a good listener, I would call friends up and talk to them about everything going on in their lives, but rarely, if ever, share my own concerns. Whilst I still listen to my friends, I’ve become more adept at sharing my own news too, both good and bad. Suffering in silence is the worst, it only serves to make you feel more isolated.
Tell someone how you are feeling, be it a family member, friend or colleague. The simple gesture of sharing, can immediately ‘lift’ you, and you’d be surprised how many people will tell you that they’ve felt exactly the same at one point or another.
9.Overestimate the time it takes to do everything and learn to say no. Being pushed for time is one of my number one stress-triggers, I hate working up till the deadline for something, or running out of the house to make an appointment. I like to schedule my day in to ‘working blocks’ and overestimate everything so as to allow myself some leeway. If you find extra time to play with you can fill this in with errands, or get ahead of another project – there’s always something to do.
Be realistic about what you can, and want to, do. It can be instinctive to say “yes” to an invitation, or a work project, but is it going to stress you out to do so? Overestimating the time you need to do things gives you a cushion should you overrun, and following your gut instinct on things you don’t really want to do will leave your diary free of commitments you’s other wise dread.
10.Sleep. Ah sleep, snooze, dreams . . . ! Recently I returned from a few days away from the blog (hence the unusual structure of The Elgin Avenue this week), I was helping my parents out with their business. I was absolutely frazzled when I came home on Sunday evening, emotional, and ratty. When Oli and I finally got to see each other after four days apart, I was so tired I could barely keep up conversation. I felt myself not being ‘me’, and instead of pushing to stay awake, I decided to simply go to bed.
I slept from 10pm to 9am, and was like a new person in the morning. Whilst it’s easy to think that ‘pushing through’ the tiredness will lead to more work, I’ve found that the type of work I get done when I’m tired is slower and of poorer quality than when I am rested. I’ve found that I would rather go to sleep early, and wake up an hour sooner than normal, I’m almost always faster and better at working than I was otherwise when sleep deprived.
If you struggle to sleep in the evening, try allocating an hour before bed time without devices. Allow your eyes to get tired reading a book, or listen to a great podcast.
I hope you guys finds these tips helpful in aiding you to handle stress. A few quotes to remember, from one of my favourite carry-everywhere books – The Little Book Of Mindfulness, by Tiddy Rowan . . .
“Breath – and – smile”
“Mindful. Not mind full.”
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Have a great day ahead guys!
Love, Monica x