These are some simple Do’s and Don’t’s- some basic tips to help you deal with stress which some people have found helpful in tackling their stress levels. Don’t stress yourself further by trying to implement them all, or by worrying if something you do try is not effective for you. Allow yourself to experiment. Give yourself permission to reject what doesn’t work. You will already be defeating your stress bug.
1. Try to become aware of your own warning signs, and learn to recognise them. Do you find yourself grinding your teeth? Tapping your fingers or your feet? Tensing your body? Shouting at someone who has done nothing to annoy you? These are all common symptoms of stress.
2. Can you work back from this physical warning sign to what might have set it off? Don’t be surprised if you arrive at something different from your present circumstances, but having something in common with the present which has evoked your response, by association.
3. See if you can teach yourself to distinguish more clearly between the real stressor and the reminder. Try telling yourself, “This is a memory, it is not happening now” And remember to congratulate yourself when you succeed and be kind to yourself when you don’t.
4. Our levels of stress are not helped by unhealthy lifestyles. Do you eat, drink, exercise and sleep healthily? There is a lot of advice available if you look for it, and even if you don’t:
4a). Eat complex carbohydrates with low GI rather than refined ones with high GI. This will really help with maintaining your energy levels and avoiding a drop in your blood sugar level.
4b). It is hard to avoid the government’s “Five a Day” campaign. Take it seriously and try to eat a minimum of five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day. (Potatoes don’t count, I’m afraid.) Try to vary the colours, and eat some things raw.
4c). Make sure that your fluid intake is adequate, by which I mean Drink Water. Many of us exist on the brink of dehydration for much of the time. If the common advice to drink two litres of water a day overwhelms you, try drinking five fluid ounces each hour. It won’t add up to two litres, but it will be more than one. You might even find that you lose some weight – we frequently mistake thirst for hunger, and eat when we should drink. Alcohol does not help for several reasons: it is a diuretic, so it encourages our bodies to get rid of fluids; it is difficult for our livers to process and can cause long-term damage; it certainly doesn’t help our brain function.
4d). Try to moderate your intake of caffeine. It is another diuretic, as well as a stimulant, and can make people feel very edgy.
4e). If you smoke tobacco, try to cut down and stop. If you smoke anything else, try to cut down and stop. All of these substances can damage your health, and most apart from tobacco can also lead to criminal convictions. If your life is already stressful, do you want to add more worry?
4f). Try to build in time to switch off each day. It needn’t be long – a five minute walk around the block every few hours can work wonders. And make sure that you have time to unwind before you go to bed, so that your mind is not still racing.
4g). As far as you can, establish a regular pattern for sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at approximately the same times each day – our bodies stay healthier if they have regular routines. Not everyone needs eight hours’ sleep each night, but most of us need at least six.
4h). If possible make time to include some activity which helps you to relax in your day: a walk; listening to your favourite music; yoga; phoning an understanding friend; reading; dancing (in your own home with no-one watching is fine). You will know what works for you – make use of your knowledge.
4i). Make time to fit in some exercise every day. This might be covered within one of the other points above, but it needs to be as regular as you can make it. It doesn’t have to be competitive (competition can be stressful in itself) but it needs to be steady and regular. Walking is fine, and free.
5. Keep a diary for a week so that you can see where your time really goes. Once you have this information, check out how much control you can have. Manage what you can, to your advantage. If you don’t take good care of yourself you won’t be able to take good care of anyone else.
6. If you have the time and the money you might find a “Manage Your Stress” course to go on. If you do, don’t expect it to be directed specifically at you nor that it will “cure” you over night. Take from it what you can, what you can use as it is relevant to your particular situation.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed, but think about who might be the best person to approach before you ask.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed by this list – take it gently. It is intended to help reduce your stress, not add to it.