I’d like to begin this blog post with a precursor. Actually, several.
It is a fact that everybody will and does get stressed/anxious/nervous at some point in their lives. It is entirely normal and an essential part of human nature. The nerves and stress we feel often motivate us to achieve our best and although uncomfortable at the time, they can be looked back upon as natural and inevitable.
However, it is when these feelings of stress and anxiety start to do the following things:
- take over your life
- not go away
- stop you doing things you would normally do
- manifest themselves physically
that it’s time to step back and make a change.
I’d also like to point out that everybody feels stress and anxiety in different ways and that there’s no normal way to experience them. The terms ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ aren’t always interrelated and although anxiety can be applied to various aspects of life, this post is intended as a guide for those who experience the two synonymously.
So, with that out of the way, here are a few general tips to help deal with said feelings:
Make time to relax
I cannot stress how important it is to make time in your life for relaxation. It’s far too easy to get into the cycle of things that you get stressed and anxious about taking over your entire life and occupying your thoughts 24/7, and it is simply not healthy for your brain and body to fixate upon something for so long. Just taking the time out of your day to not think about it – take a bath, read a book, watch some TV, whatever makes you feel most comfortable – will immediately make you feel better.
If you think you don’t have time to do this: tell yourself you do. Everybody needs and deserves time to relax.
When you’re in a situation that you feel uncomfortable in, whether it be social, under pressure, a sudden thought or even just general uneasiness, it’s easy to get caught up in the panic and let it take over. Regulating your breathing is the best way to help overcome these feelings. The most important thing is to lengthen the amount of time that you exhale so that it is equal or more than the time you inhale. Try inhaling for 5-7 seconds and exhaling for 5-7 seconds, or else try in for 5 and out for 8. These techniques are great for lowering the heart rate and calming down the body.
Another tip is to concentrate your focus on a part of your body, or different parts of your body. For example, start at the tips of your toes and slowly work up through the body, focussing on each body part as you pass. Although this can be quite difficult to concentrate on if you’re in a busy or loud environment, hopefully by the time you have reached the top of your head you will feel calmer. Both of these techniques are very much linked to meditation and yoga, both of which are great ways to relax and find that ‘inner peace’ at a particularly stressful time.
A big part of stress and anxiety is the feeling of not being in control of a certain situation; the feeling of being overwhelmed. It sounds simple, but getting things into order and being more organised is an easy way of putting everything back under your control. If you’re stressed about the amount of things you have to do – write a list and/or a timetable of when to complete them. If one piece of work is getting you stressed then make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to complete it; leaving things until the last minute is never going to help.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about a number of different thing that are all coagulating in your brain into one great ball of stress, then try to entangle it piece by piece. Exactly what are you stressed about it? Sometimes just writing it down is calming. Keeping a diary of things you are stressed about, situations you became anxious in and what you did/are going to do is a cathartic way of dealing with a confusion of emotions.
Put things into perspective
In a certain moment or in a certain period of time, something that might seem small and insignificant in the future suddenly seems to occupy this huge space in your present. You get the feeling that something awful is going to happen. It can consume your entire being until all that matters in a moment is this thing which it turns out, doesn’t even matter at all.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about in a situation or about a particular something, take a moment to step back and think what’s the worst that could happen? Trace it right to the end and most of the time you’ll realise that the thing you’re so worried about isn’t so big after all, and that the way you’re feeling is actually a little bit unreasonable given the chain of possible outcomes.
Obviously this guide won’t be for everyone or for every type of stress and/or anxiety, but if it helps just one person reading it, then I’ll be a happy girl. But also,if you feel completely overwhelmed and that you do not want to deal with these issues by yourself any longer, it is important to seek help. There are plenty of ways to do so:
- Talk to friends/family
- Talk to your GP
- Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Just to note, Rethink Mental Illness is a great charity who is doing a lot to challenge social perceptions of mental illness – check them out at: http://rethink.org/