How to deal with stress
You’re stressed, I’m stressed, we’re all stressed. Welcome to the 21st century! It might be hard to imagine a stress-free life, but there are ways you can deal with stress and minimise its effect on your life.
No matter what the source of your stress is, here are a few ways you can deal with it.
What happens when we get stressed?
When we’re stressed, our bodies react in various physiological ways. Your blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster and your blood sugar increases, which all contributes to our age-old ‘fight or flight’ response. This is designed to give us the best possible odds at surviving a run-in with, say, a lion.
But unless you’re a zookeeper in a zoo with unfortunately lax security around the lion enclosure, we don’t need this response half as much as we used to. Sadly, no one told our bodies this and so our stress reactions work overtime when we’re feeling overwhelmed with life, and because modern life can be so constant it makes it difficult for our bodies to slow down.
Tackling stress at its core
If you’re feeling stressed, it’s ok to go easy on yourself. It’s not a nice feeling and it’s one of those things that tends to just snowball. So take time to take a breather – have a cuppa, step back and take stock. In the short term, things like breathing exercises and doing something to take your mind off your triggers can help massively.
In the longer term, you need to objectively look at the biggest sources of stress in your life and figure out a way of taming the beast. If your workload is high, is there a way you can work smarter? If the kids are driving you up the wall, is there something you can do with them that lets them blow off steam (and will hopefully tire them out)?
Lifestyle changes to deal with stress better
Of course, even with the best will in the world, you’re probably still going to feel stressed at some points. But lifestyle changes can really help you to deal with it better – and it doesn’t involve uprooting your life to go and live in a monastery in peace.
Surprisingly, your diet can have a big effect on how your body deals with stress. You’re only human, so if indulging in your favourite foods feels like it helps temporarily relieve stress, then by all means indulge, but don’t make it a daily occurrence.
Your first response to feeling stressed might be to eat. We get it, there’s something very comforting about kicking back with Pizza Hut’s finest offerings, but in the long run, it’s not going to help your state of mind.
In fact, giving in to junk food binges is the exact opposite of helpful in the fight against stress.
Regular emotional eating like this won’t only have an impact on your waistline, but it will also make you more likely to experience the more unpleasant physical side effects of stress – bloating, gas and other digestive issues, which you really don’t want to deal with on top of everything else.
Eating a balanced diet is key to helping your body deal with the physiological impact of stress, helping to stabilise blood sugars and balance the release of stress-response hormones, so aim for eating your 5-a-day, don’t skip meals and load up on protein.
It can also be a good idea to cut down on caffeine if you find it makes you jittery, or if you experience slumps in energy throughout the day. Sure, coffee gives you an energy boost, but it’s short-lived, and that feeling of coffee giving you life is mostly in your head (sorry).
Support for dealing with stress
Feeling stressed as a reaction to daily life events is perfectly natural and you shouldn’t worry if you’re finding things difficult, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. There’s a global pandemic and life has changed completely for a lot of people.
For example, if you’re trying to juggle working from home with having kids at home too, and you’re struggling with stress, I mean duh, you don’t usually have to juggle your workload, be responsible for your kids’ education with no help and do it all from home, with nowhere to go and nothing to do to destress. Of course you’re stressed!
Having said that, if it’s ruining your enjoyment of things you usually enjoy and you’re in feeling on edge and in a constant state of anxiety, there’s no shame in reaching out for support. Talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling, remember to prioritise looking after number one and see your GP if it’s impacting your daily life.
- This comprehensive guide to how to deal with stress has a lot of great practical ideas.
- This NHS guide to stress has many links for helpful services to help you deal with stress better.
- Stress Control: A Mind, Body, Life Approach To Boosting Your Well-Being by Jim White, a book recommended by Reading Well On Prescription, a health professionals-backed service that recommends books around mental health that can be borrowed from your local library.
- MAN v FAT Football members also get access to the digital mental and behavioural health platform SilverCloud, which includes a programme covering stress and techniques for how to deal with it. If you’re yet to sign up, ask your coach for a PIN or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details (although be aware that response times are currently impacted by the majority of the team being on furlough). You can read more about what SilverCloud is here.