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As we move towards the end of Summer and into the busy month of September, it’s important to have a few tricks up our sleeve to control any associated stress that may arise or that is ongoing so we’ve put a list of 9 ways to control stress together. This is important to help find enjoyment during busy times rather than go through the days in a state of panic and anxiety.

RECOGNISE THE SYMPTOMS – The ability to cope with stress is partly genetic and partly learned so each person is different. What may be stressful to one person may be enjoyable for another so look to yourself to find out what affects you.

The way that stress affects us depends on a balance between the demands made and our ability to cope. Reactions can be physical, emotional and/or behavioural.

The emotional symptoms vary but may include feeling tense, irritable or moody and reacting strongly to small irritations that wouldn’t have annoyed you previously. Difficulty sleeping, falling behind at work or struggling to keep on top of domestic chores may be signs if these behaviours are in contrast to how you normally manage. Other signs include feeling frustrated, aggressive, panicky, unable to make decisions or fearful of social embarrassment.

Physical reactions to stress include muscle tension, fast breathing, tight feeling in the chest, indigestion, pins and needles in hands or feet, constipation or diarrhoea, restlessness, changes in appetite, pounding heartbeat, feeling sick, eczema breakouts and frequent urges to pass urine.

The behaviour of people under stress can change quite a bit, ranging from hating being on their own to becoming withdrawn, continually seeking reassurance, changing their minds a lot or becoming obsessive and checking things over and over in a bid to bring control and order to the sense of confusion they feel surrounded by. It’s important to take notice and not ignore such feelings otherwise stress will increase and become a bigger problem.

9 Ways To Control Stress

If you feel your stress levels are heightened there are ways to reduce, even eliminate some of the stressors. Here are my top 9 tips to control stress:

  1. DEEP BREATHING – Controlled deep breathing has been shown to be an effective technique for dealing with physical symptoms of stress. This means breathing in through the nose while expanding the abdomen and filling the lungs with air, holding the breath for 5 seconds, then breathing out slowly, emptying the lungs completely and relaxing the stomach.
  2. KEEP BUSY – Stress usually has symptoms of worry and anxiety so try to direct your mind to doing constructive tasks as sitting around can make you feel more on edge. Make a list of small things you can do that may help reduce worry (even just make a shopping list or empty the bins). Think of the things that bother you the most and write down a few things that will help solve the problems, anything at all, even talking to a friend or relative. Give yourself credit for thinking of solution focused ideas. Revisit the list and weigh up the options. Carry out something else from the list and then decide if it was helpful.
  3. PLAN – Make a mental or written plan for the day and include something you enjoy. Easier said than done when you’re busy but crucial to reducing stress because you feel there is something to look forward to. I mean simple things, a takeout coffee, a favourite drama on Netflix, surfing the net for half an hour, just a little you time, ideally away from noise and distraction. The schedule also puts into perspective what’s planned for the day ahead so instead of feeling overwhelmed you can break the schedule into smaller more manageable sections.
  4. REDUCE UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS – Focusing on things about you or your life that you don’t like can exaggerate the problems in your mind and make them seem worse. Try to interrupt negative conversations with yourself by asking yourself if it’s a helpful thought or could you interpret the situation differently. Define the problem for what it is – not catastrophically but realistically and with solutions in mind.
  5. REACH OUT – Don’t shy away from help when you know you’re struggling. Good friends and loving relationships counteract stress. People want to help, whether that’s emotionally or practically, and support gives an opportunity to get through particularly stressful periods. It’s not a character flaw to need a dig out from time to time, often you’ll find the support givers totally understand and may have been through similar experiences which means they can empathise and encourage.
  6. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – To physically and mentally relax it’s important to move at least 2 or 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes. Walking with a friend might help, yoga is also useful for stilling the mind while holding physical poses helps to condition and strengthen the body. Stress induced aches and pains can be greatly reduced by Pilates.
  1. REDUCE OR REJECT – Using alcohol, cigarettes or sleeping tablets will not reduce stress even if it feels like they do. It’s tempting to numb unpleasant feelings but developing a dependence will increase stress as other problems arise.
  2. NUTRITION – It’s easy to neglect yourself when feeling stressed but food is vital and you need energy to manage other pressures. Your brain and body need protein, carbohydrates and fats to function so do your best to schedule regular meals and drink water. Try to avoid sugary snacks as energy won’t last, and watch your caffeine intake as over consumption will increase physical stress symptoms.
  3. LEARN RELAXATION TECHNIQUES – Apart from deep breathing, a full relaxation sequence helps to alleviate stress when practiced regularly. Relaxation reduces the activity of stress hormones, increases blood flow to muscles, and induces feelings of calm. There are many apps that can be downloaded, meditation helps to clear the mind and mindfulness is based on appreciation of the present moment rather than what has gone or is to come. These techniques can provide stress relief in as little as 2-3 minutes if rehearsed and can be done almost anywhere.
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