Stress management – Tips for a healthier mind

Stress is how your body reacts to natural threats or to feeling external pressures. It’s a completely normal part of life – it’s what kept humans safe from danger back while we were still evolving as a species, so it’s a deeply-embedded part of how the human mind works. It can be a really useful response that gives us the little bit of fear we need to make sure we don’t harm ourselves – but also makes sure we meet deadlines, meet the demands of our friends and families, and our expectations of ourselves.

However, when a stress reaction happens when it shouldn’t – or is stronger than it should be – it can become a problem. It can cause anxiety, disappointment, irritation, low mood, and can negatively affect our work and personal relationships. 

If we continue to experience long periods of stress, it can result in exhaustion or burnout.

So if you’re feeling the effects of burnout – or want to adopt good habits that will prevent it – here are some simple tips to keep excess stress at bay:

Go one step at a time

Letting tasks or expectations mount up can make them feel overwhelming. Remember that almost everything in life can be broken down into small, manageable steps. So start there – write down what’s feeling overwhelming, then write down the small, easy steps you can take to overcome it.

Think positive

This is all about practicing mindfulness – and hacking your brain. If you force yourself to think positively about situations, your brain will eventually do it on autopilot. Try it! It works! Also, take time each day to be grateful and thankful for the things that have gone right in your life. Practicing thankfulness is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety.

Challenge your thoughts

Is what you’re thinking about really serving you? Not every thought is helpful, so remember to challenge thoughts that aren’t going to help you. However, try not to study or judge your thoughts too much – even the best medical scientists don’t understand where thoughts come from, so there’s no need to over analyse or judge yourself for thinking something.

Exercise

Physical activity is proven to reduce the effects of stress. That’s especially true if you can really get the muscles, blood, and endorphins pumping. If strenuous exercise isn’t realistic, at least try and get out in the fresh air and sun (if there is any!). You’ll burn off the nervous energy as you’ll activate the “flight” response – it tricks your mind into thinking you’re escaping the perceived threat. It won’t get rid of your stress entirely, but it will reduce its effects.

Talk about it

Everyone needs to talk to somebody sometimes – it’s a basic human need. When we’re experiencing times of stress, that need is only amplified further. Talking about our thoughts and feelings has a cathartic effect, so reach out to friends, family, colleagues, therapists, helplines – there is always somebody there to listen.

For more information on getting help with any mental health issue, visit the NHS mental health site at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/. They have a wealth of advice about the right helpline to call for your specific needs.

You can also visit Mind – a registered charity dedicated to better mental health – at https://www.mind.org.uk/.