What can you do to help yourself to de-stress?
Stress is part of everyday life. The degree of stress individuals experience can differ from a reasonable amount, which can be deemed acceptable, to too much stress, which can cause burnout. Burnout means that you become emotionally and physically exhausted. It can develop slowly and can creep up on you - particularly if you are working too many long hours, in a high-pressured environment or working for an overly demanding boss.
It can affect anyone at any age, in any position, and treatment for stress depends on a number of factors affecting each individual. Individuals who are more competitive and tend to have high expectations of themselves and of others are more likely to experience burnout. These individuals are less likely to delegate work and like to be in control. They are unlikely to ask for help when they need it or when under pressure.
So how can you recognise the symptoms of stress in yourself or in somebody close to you? Insomnia can be one of the first signs, which can cause heightened tiredness, and irritability or feeling angry. This can lead to a low mood, becoming less tolerant of other people and situations and a feeling of not being able to cope with normal daily tasks, which can start to feel quite overwhelming.
You may also find that you become more defensive or cynical or start finding fault with yourself and others more easily, which can bring on the feelings of frustration, anxiety and low self-esteem. Physical signs can include headaches, indigestion, and shortness of breath, which can also cause prolonged anxiety attacks. Extreme stress can cause high blood pressure, weight loss or gain or recurring illness such as colds.
So what can you do to help yourself to de-stress and avoid burnout? You can start with setting realistic goals and taking small steps to deal with tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too far-reaching for busy times and try to keep things in perspective.
Take decisive actions
Instead of letting stressors get the best of you, make a decision to address the underlying cause of a stressful situation.
Learn to relax
It’s important to find time for yourself each day even if it’s only 15-20 minutes. Take a walk through your favourite park, or find a way to relax through a breathing exercise or meditation.
Talking to friends and family are the obvious ports of call, but it’s important that the person whom you talk to is someone you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. However, if you feel unable to disclose how you feel to your loved one's or worry what judgment’s they may make, it's worth considering getting the help of a professional such as a counsellor.
A counsellor and psychotherapist works with individuals to help them become more aware of their attitudes, feelings and behaviour, which may include self-limiting thoughts or negative automatic thoughts that have become habitual overtime.
Below is a short case study of how I work with clients
For confidential reasons I shall refer to this client as Anne. Anne was a successful 40 year old business woman. High-achieving, driven and a perfectionist, she had noticed a deterioration in her ability to function and cope with day to day activities and she began to feel overwhelmed by completing the smallest task.
Anne admitted to pushing herself hard both at work and at home. Anne’s days were filled with long hours spent in the office and when she would get home, she would look after her eight year-old daughter, whilst her husband spent most of the week working away from home, abroad.
Anne came to see me feeling stressed and unable to cope. After a full assessment, it became evident that there were a range of thought distortions and negative automatic thoughts which had led to such an unsustainable lifestyle. Anne’s self-belief system was inaccurate. ‘If I don’t finish this proposal by today, I’ll let myself down’.
Once Anne started therapy, she started to recognise these self-limiting thoughts, which led her to make important adjustments in her life. Counselling gave Anne the support and space to think things through, whilst working on her core cognitive restructuring. Over time, Anne came to the realisation that this pattern of behaviour had started at school, when she had begun comparing herself to her peers.
With the help of counselling Anne became more self-aware of her own limitations and that being unable to complete a task did not mean that she was no good and had failed. Anne was able to delegate more of her responsibilities at work and find more time for herself, which in turn enabled her to spend more quality time with her family and feel less stressed.
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About Annabelle Boyes
Annabelle is a MBACP Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor who helps clients with a wide range of presenting issues, such as depression, anxiety, stress, relationship problems, abuse, addictions and bereavement. She practices in Farnham and Hindhead in Surrey and also works for the NHS and is an Associate of Hampshire and Surrey Psychology.