Everyone feels stressed sometimes. Stress is caused by our body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. We all have different ways of reacting to pressure, and your comfortable level may be higher or lower than others around you. In the right situations, a little bit of pressure can be motivating, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But if we have too much stress for too long, we can find it hard to deal with.
Stress can make you feel anxious and irritable, and it can affect your self-esteem.
You might also notice that:
- your thoughts may race
- you may worry constantly
- you lose your temper more easily, drink more alcohol or act unreasonably
- sometimes your first clues about feeling stressed are physical signs, like tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach
For many of us stress passes, but if it doesn't go away and you're feeling overwhelmed, life can feel very difficult.
The ‘Top Ten Stress Busting Tips’ below should help, but if you have been experiencing stress for some time and it's affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further support.
1. Learn to manage your time more effectively
We waste a lot of time doing unimportant tasks, especially when stressed, so prioritise your day and do the important jobs first. The unimportant ones can wait, and often they will disappear completely leaving you time to do other things. Also, do not put off the unpleasant tasks – avoidance causes a great deal of stress. Give unpleasant tasks a high priority and do them first.
2. Know your limitations and do not take on too much
We can cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we do not want to let people down. We then end up doing more than we should. Learn to delegate effectively and be assertive so that you can say ‘No’ without upsetting or offending.
3. Find out what causes you stress
Take time to discover what is worrying you and try to change your thoughts and behaviour to reduce it. A stress assessment can help you to fully understand the causes, the implications to your health and how to manage, cope and make necessary changes.
4. Avoid unnecessary conflict
Do not be too argumentative. Is it really worth the stress? Look for win - win situations. Look for a resolution to a dispute where both parties can achieve a positive outcome. Find out what the real cause of the problem is and deal with it.
5. Accept the things you cannot change
Changing a difficult situation is not always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on all that you do have control over. Managing change effectively is essential or else performance will be reduced.
6. Take time out to relax and recharge your batteries
You will perform more effectively during work if you regularly take a short 10 / 15 minute break, easily making up the time you used relaxing. Alongside this, at least one annual break of at least 10-14 continuous days is recommended.
7. Find time to meet friends
Friends can ease work troubles and help us see things in a different way. The activities we engage in with friends help us relax and we will often have a good laugh. It boosts the immune system that is often depleted during stress.
8. Try to see things differently, develop a positive thinking style
If something is concerning you, try to see it differently. Talk over your problem with somebody before it gets out of proportion. Often, talking to a friend/colleague/family member will help you see things from a different and less stressful perspective. You may also need to consider professional help in order to achieve the desired outcome and prevent ill health and / or burnout.
9. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as coping mechanisms
Long term, these faulty coping mechanisms will just add to the problem. For example, caffeine and nicotine are stimulants – too much and the body reacts to this with the stress response increasing or even causing anxiety symptoms. Alcohol is a depressant!
10. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
If we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ensure we get adequate sleep and rest, our body is better able to cope with stress should it occur. If this is not the case, then this may be a warning sign so don’t ignore it.
Engaging in some form of physical activity may help you by working off the biochemical and physical changes that occur within your body due to stress. Relaxation also helps your body return to its normal healthy state. There are a number of relaxation techniques and complimentary therapies that may be helpful in the physical manifestation of stress including breathing exercises, Mindfulness, The Alexander Technique and Acupuncture.
This is a quick and easy breathing technique to bring about rapid relief when needed.
Using positive thoughts will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you to switch off your fight/flight reaction. It is the perfect solution to rapidly calm nerves, focus the mind and help you to think more clearly.
You can use this simple and powerful exercise at any time when you feel worried, tense, nervous or anxious.
The benefit of this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. This can be done either sitting down or standing up; you may close your eyes if it is safe to do so or if you prefer keep them open.
- Say firmly but silently to yourself – “TAKE CONTROL”.
- Repeat – “I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT TO” and breath out slowly.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose and then out through pursed lips, allowing the abdomen to soften and rise on the in breath then deflate and return to normal on the out breath.
- Slowly repeat this for 6-8 breaths over the minute with the breath out being slightly longer than the breath in.
- Say to yourself each time – “I AM BREATHING IN PEACE & BLOWING AWAY TENSION”.
- Each time you breathe out, make sure you relax your face, jaw, shoulders and hands.
- If your symptoms persist, repeat this technique for 3-5 minutes until you feel calm and relaxed.
ABDOMINAL BREATHING REVERSES AND HELPS CONTROL WORRY, TENSION, STRESS, ANXIETY AND PANIC.
REMEMBER - IF YOU ARE RELAXED – YOU CAN’T BE TENSE!
How you react to a situation is based on how you assess that situation. For example, two people can do exactly the same job, yet while one may find the tight deadlines stressful, the other may thrive on the adrenalin rush and love their work. People under stress often say they feel ‘thing are running away from them’, or ‘life is too fast’, or ‘they don’t have time to think.’
Learning the Alexander Technique can help you take control and assess a situation before you react. The practical techniques will get you into the moment, also known as ‘being in the now’. When we are focused and living in the moment, we appear to have more time to think and have the ability to choose how we respond to each situation we find ourselves in. Events don’t appear to get ahead of us, we think more clearly and can ultimately prevent excess adrenalin flooding our system.
Remember... stress is your reaction to a situation, not the situation itself.
How Acupuncture Can Help
Stress is a common complaint cited by acupuncture patients, with a variety of possible associated symptoms. The most prevalent of these is anxiety. However other conditions that stressed people frequently talk about are such as back pain, chronic pain, depression, headache, insomnia, migraines and neck pain.
There is little clinical research on stress per se apart from the above conditions. One study found that traditional acupuncture is just as effective as talking therapies and more effective than drugs for depression.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neuro-chemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.
Acupuncture for back and neck pain is thought to provide pain relief stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, releasing endorphins and other substances in the nervous / hormonal system. It is believed to reduce inflammation by releasing vascular and immuno-modulatory factors, and also improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility - by increasing local micro-circulation.
For more information about stress or other conditions and how acupuncture can help, please see the British Acupuncture Council.
Our acupuncturists here at the Centre also happy to discuss with you any issues that you may have. For more information please see our page on acupuncture.