Expert chat: Dealing with stress

Petra and Rachel, our anti-stress expertsHow do you get rid of stress when everything gets too much? Counsellor & life coach Petra and vinspired Programme Manager Rachel answer your questions.

Fiona: I'm having trouble preparing for my coursework and exams. I've got so much work to do over half-term and I stress about it a lot.

Petra: Sometimes stressful things just build up too much and become overwhelming. It can help to get the basics down first: Are you getting enough sleep? Eating healthily? Exercising? Reducing caffeine intake? Sometimes it's worth thinking about the practical things that might be preventing us from coping as well as we could. Spending some downtime with friends is also a good coping mechanism. In terms of your work, it's worth thinking about what support networks you have to help you out. How might you break down a big task into more manageable ones? A time plan can help you feel less anxious about taking study breaks.

Rachel: I know that I can't properly relax when I have work hanging over me! Sometimes I try and set a minimum amount of study time, maybe two hours a day. Then I plan something fun I can do for a couple of hours too!

Petra: Mindfulness can also help you to stay in the moment instead of worrying too much about what's ahead.

Janice: How do you cope with stressful situations when you're in a busy environment? I get stressed at work because it's very busy.

Rachel: First things first: take time to make sure you know what your priorities are. What's the most important thing you have to do right now? If you know that, sometimes it can help you feel more in control. Taking a few seconds just to concentrate on your breathing can really help. Is there anyone at work you can ask for help when things are stressing you out? We have some tips here to help you reduce stress which might be useful.

Tina: I just started university and I'm struggling with the stress of the work. I've tried using study plans but I find it difficult to meet them which only makes me more stressed. I see a counsellor but the time is limited and I normally have a lot to discuss. I struggle with things like mindfulness, especially when I'm tense. What can I do?

Petra: Firstly, it can help to look at practical things you can do. Take a break, go for a walk, call a friend - these sort of things. You could also try listening to a mindfulness app for just three minutes and see how you go. Remember, things like mindfulness can take time. It's a bit like building up a muscle which can then be used when a crisis comes up. Another thing is to try and notice the early signs of stress so you can do something about it sooner rather than later. You could also think about the goals or tasks that you're setting yourself? Are they useful or are they a bit too challenging right now? Breaking down your tasks into more manageable goals could help you ease that pressure, maybe with the help of your counsellor.

Monica: How do you deal with stress after a bereavement? I'm finding it so difficult and end up getting really angry and frustrated over the smallest of things.

Petra: Bereavement is hard as it can cause us to explode at times when nothing seems to have provoked us so it's hard to make sense of the emotions. Building traditions around remembering the person you lost - either privately or with someone else - can help celebrate the happy memories. Remember that anger and stress is really a natural way of reacting to losing someone. It takes time feel balanced again. Be really kind to yourself - it's ok to feel overwhelmed and to need a break. We can think of some ways that you can fill up your energy tank again before you get back to the task.

Janice: What things do you enjoy, Monica?

Monica: I enjoy going for walks, baking and cycling.

Rose: I find just standing outside in fresh air for a few moments helps me when I'm really worked up.

Janice: Something that I have found comfort in since losing a member of my family is listening to their favourite music - it helps to find something nice to remember that person. I know there are bad days and good days but it's all about letting yourself feel what you feel.

Petra: Also remembering that the person you lost wants you to find a way to remember them but to also be happy as you figure out life. Do ask for help from family, friends or a counsellor to help you get through this time.

Rachel: There is some advice here from the Loss Foundation about coping with feeling angry after bereavement.

James: You could also get in touch with the people over at Cruse. They have advice and a helpline.

Rose: I'm a bit of a perfectionist and am struggling to manage my workload at my job as a result. My manager has said that I don't need to take on so many tasks, but I'm finding it hard to stop. It's stressing me out to the point where I'm nearly in tears and not able to do the job to the best of my ability. How do I cope?

Rachel: It can be hard when you're a perfectionist, but it sounds like your boss is trying to help in the long run. Could you talk to them about which bits of work you could take responsibility for? That way, you get to make sure you do a good job of the work you are taking on. It sounds like your boss thinks you're doing well but doesn't want you to take on too much and burn out.

Petra: It can help to check in with your boss regularly to make sure you're on the right track. Following things up with emails is a good way to get everything in writing so that none of your agreed tasks will get missed. It's also important to look after yourself, too - you've got to clock out and have a life as well! It's possible to do this as well as being excellent at your job, it just takes a bit of practice. Getting enough sleep, eating well, taking exercise, and having breaks from screentime are all really important. Listen to your body when it starts being stressed, and do the things that make you happy. Being well-rested can help you do even better at work.

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Updated on 30-Oct-2015