Without wanting to make light of it, stress is annoying. We’re programmed to respond to any kind of frightening or worrying situation by attacking it or running away, which is programming that’s a million or so years out of date. When your problem is money, or work, or family issues, neither running away from or attacking anyone is going to help you one bit, so you just sort of get a bit shaky and tense and unable to concentrate on anything because concentrating on things isn’t running away or fighting anything.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to work around that instinct, and calm yourself down to a point where you can actually be useful again.
Any repetitive movement that doesn’t requires careful attention can be soothing. Knitting and needlepoint are favourites because you need to think about what you’re doing in the moment, so you don’t need to think your bank balance your to do list while you’re doing it. Knitting circles are a great way to do this as it gives you a chance to socialise while you’re calming yourself down.
It doesn’t matter what the exercise is, the fact is that it increases endorphins and gets rid of all those pesky fight or flight reflexes. However, the important thing is it’s exercise you enjoy. If a run around the lake seems like a nice, relaxing way to spend your time, do it. If that just sounds like more slog in a time when it feels like you have more than enough slog, then find a form of exercise that you do enjoy.
Music That You Enjoy
You don’t have to listen to whale song to use music to chill you out (although you can if you like that kind of thing). Just listen to music that has good associations for you, whether it’s rap, power ballad or classical music. The important thing is that it has good associations. Now isn’t the time to listen to that album of tragic folk songs that always make you cry.
It’s amazing how much benefit a good night’s rest can do you. By simply making sure you get to bed early and enjoy a good eight hours you can immeasurably improve the way you feel the next day. You’ll be surprised how many of the symptoms of stress can actually just be the result of running up a sleep debt.
Another surprisingly effective way of lowering your stress levels is to simply eat a good meal – the symptoms of stress and hunger can look really similar sometimes, and if you’re already feeling stressed out the chances are you’ve probably missed a meal or two already. You might not even feel like eating, but sitting down to a hearty meal is a good way to fuel yourself for the day’s hardships.
See Your Doctor
If you’ve been feeling stressed for an extended length of time it can have a detrimental effect on your health, physical and mental. If this is becoming a prolonged problem it’s worth talking to a professional, be it a counsellor or doctor, to try and get to the root of your problems.
Sam Wright is a freelance writer with a particular interest in mental health issues who works with East Sussex Counsellors.