Top tips for working with stress
Feelings of stress at certain times and in certain situations can be a completely normal way for your body to react. The build-up of emotional and mental pressure in our daily lives can often become too much, and this leads to feeling stressed out.
Often, we can put it down to a particular situation, such as taking an exam or speaking in front of lots of people, and though you may feel uncomfortable you have an understanding of why you feel this way.
In contrast to this, it is when we can’t explicitly identify where our stress originates from that problems start to arise, as we start to feel out of control and that our stress is becoming dominant.
Symptoms of stress vary from person to person, but common symptoms can include feeling sick, feeling nervous or on edge, a raised heartbeat, problems concentrating, and trouble sleeping. You may experience tension in your body, or physical shaking, a dry mouth, or maybe even find it hard to breathe.
For many people, a reaction to these feelings manifests in wanting to control their stress levels, which can quickly feel an impossible task.
Five tops tips to help you cope with stress
1. Work towards accepting the feeling rather than actively fighting it
Stress will often creep up on us, and within no time at all will often debilitate us. It may often feel like treading water when our legs slowly become too heavy to keep us afloat; that feeling of utter panic - "how do I cope?".
There is a very natural and instinctive impulse to try and fight stressful feelings and push them away, but I have found this to be futile as the stress feeds off this reaction like fire being fed petrol.
Fighting the stress involves a huge amount of energy and commitment, which often leaves us feeling drained and defeated.
The process of understanding and learning about our own stress is a valuable journey to take. This can involve understanding triggers that kick-start stress. Are there specific situations, people, or places that make you feel high levels of stress?
When our stress is fully understood, the process of acceptance can begin. This is more than just saying "I accept that I get stressed", but rather a shift in consciousness and how we relate to the experiencing of stress.
Becoming less afraid and more aware can go along way to managing stress levels. Where it may be at the forefront of your consciousness, it will eventually take a back seat and have less of a physical and mental effect on you. I often describe it as making friends with our stress rather than using our energy in trying to fight it.
2. Begin to understand that, as the feeling has risen, it will also disappear
Carrying on with the practice of making friends with our stress, it is valuable to understand that just as stressful feelings have flooded our mind and body, they will also drain away.
The key here is not to grasp onto the fact that the stressful feelings have made an appearance, but to acknowledge it and try and let go. I’ve often heard people describe this practice as watching a wave rise and fall. The wave, like stress, will build momentum and become quite powerful and dominant, reaching a peak of intensity that can look and feel daunting. The awareness is that this powerful, dominant wave will then begin to decrease in its overwhelming presence, and will soon disappear and feel less daunting.
Pulling this understanding into the forefront of our awareness will help us should stressful feelings surface again.
3. Understand that you are not weak for experiencing these feelings
It is important to remember that you are not weak for experiencing stressful feelings; in fact, it is very normal. Today's pace of life can make it very difficult to remain calm and balanced, but with a new outlook and the proper support, it can be managed.
Regular physical exercise can alleviate the build-up of stress and help you maintain a healthier lifestyle. Exercise produces endorphins which can give you a natural boost and make you feel better.
5. Talk to someone
Talk to someone when you feel these feelings coming on, so you don’t have to manage them by yourself. Finding someone who you trust and making them aware of when you feel stressed can go a long way in helping you. Sharing how you feel and not being judged is very effective support.
How counselling can help
Counselling can be a very effective way of talking about your stress in a non-judgemental environment with a professional who can help. Together with a counsellor, you can look specifically at what makes you feel these stressful feelings and why. Then you can learn ways of dealing with these feelings, so that you can take control of your stress and start to feel more positive and happier again.