How to cope with stress
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. But if you feel like you can’t cope with life’s challenges and your stress is ongoing, it can really start to get on top of you. No matter how stressed you are, there are ways to make life a little simpler - read The Mix’s guide to reducing stress.
Causes of stress
The first step when it comes to how to cope with stress is to understand what exactly it is that is getting too much for you. It could be your job, education, relationships – or it could be all of them at once. But if you’re able to break down your big pile of stress into smaller pieces, it’ll help you to compartmentalise and understand what you can do about it:
- If it’s exams that are stressing you out, you can read our article about exam stress.
- If it’s your job turning you into a frantic mess, you can read our article about work stress.
- And if it’s uni driving you up the wall, we have a student stress article.
I don’t know why I’m stressed
Sometimes you might feel like you just can’t cope with life, but it’s also not uncommon to feel stressed but not be able to identify why.
Try to view stress as a warning that some aspects of your life might need changing. In order to beat stress, you’ll need to work out what these aspects are. If you’re unsure about what is causing your stress, try:
- Carrying a notebook with you.
- Record everything you do throughout the day.
- Note down how stressed you feel on a rating of one to 10 for each listing.
After a few days, some patterns should begin to emerge – are your ratings always higher when you are working to a deadline, dealing with a certain person, or are you just trying to cram too much into your day?
How can I feel less stressed?
Starting the move towards managing stress is much easier said than done. Whilst the power of positive thinking can be helpful, it won’t fix everything overnight. What you can do is build some healthy habits that become a part of your self-care – this will help to reduce your stress over time. Unsure where to start? Here are a few suggestions:
Breathing exercises for stress reduction
Ok, so we do it all the time, but very few of us do it properly. Retrain your breathing patterns and you could soon see an improvement in anxiety and tension levels. In fact, certain breathing techniques have even been shown to help people deal with stress by lowering their blood pressure and heart rate.
Having your fight or flight mechanism triggered might be a stress response you’ve experienced, and breathing exercises can help with this, too.
The NHS website suggests some simple breathing techniques.
Massage to ease stress and tension
One of the most typical symptoms of stress is muscle tension, and a good massage can give you some relief from this. Search online to find a qualified practitioner, or if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, ask a partner or friend to work on your knots instead.
Mixing a few drops of aromatherapy oils into some plain massage oil will make the experience even better. AromaWeb has detailed information about each oil’s different properties and how they can help relieve depression, fatigue, anxiety and anger.
Stress and exercise
Choose the right exercise and you’ll feel both energised and relaxed. As a general rule, yoga and Tai Chi are excellent for reinstalling calm by focusing on breathing and centring the mind, but any physical exercise will reduce stress by using up adrenalin and other hormones that the body produces under stress, as well as relaxing the muscles.
See our guide to self care for more self care tips.
Other strategies for coping with stress
- Eat a healthy diet. Processed foods, too much salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine can all drain energy and often leave you with that ‘wired’ feeling, so try to moderate and be mindful of what you eat and drink.
- Try to get enough sleep. The best way to do this is to regulate your sleeping hours by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. It’ll become easier to do the more you do it!
- De-clutter your life. Take anything you don’t use to a charity shop, recycle old magazines and clear away the pizza boxes from under your bed. Then go to work/college on Monday and give your desk the once over. This is the quick-fix of all de-stressers.
- Just say “no” to demanding colleagues/friends/family. You know how much you can cope with, so pick out the important stuff and delegate the rest. Prioritising lists can often help you decide what you really need to spend time working on – and what can wait. See our article on how to be assertive for more tips.
- Try to set aside at least 30 minutes each day to switch off from the world and unwind.
- Laugh. Research shows that not only does laughter improve our mood; it also relieves stress and improves our immune system. The next time you find yourself with a frown on your face, consider this: four-year-old children laugh on average 400 times a day, whereas adults only laugh 14 times. So go on, get those funny videos out and invite your friends over for some serious cheering up.
The Mix’s Stresshead tool was designed by young people to help relax and distract you when it all gets too much. It also has great stress-relief advice that might help with any short or long term problems you’re having.
Check out the rest of our stress and mental health articles here.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 10-Mar-2023
Photo by Shutterstock.
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