Enduring high levels of stress is known to be linked to anxiety and depression, and in some cases self harm and suicide. That is why it is so important that we understand the stress factors, how we respond to stress and most helpfully, what we do to develop approaches to manage this stress.
There is no right or wrong in experiencing or managing stress. Each of us will respond differently to situations and experiences, and sometimes have different responses to the same situation. The important thing is to become aware of the feelings, sensations and thought patterns to help us address our stress.
Practising gratitude and noticing – each morning, before getting out of bed I identify at least three things that I am grateful for or looking forward to in the day ahead. I do the same before going to sleep and on a weekly basis I record people or experiences that I am grateful for. I started this practise of gratitude at a particularly low point in my life and have found over the last three years that it makes a significant difference to my wellbeing.
Listening to the signals – it took me a long time to realise how loudly my body tells me when I am feeling stress. My eczema gets worse, my appetite goes all over the place, the voice of self-doubt gets louder and I get a physical feeling that something bad is going to happen. Whilst I have always felt these things, I didn’t – and don’t – always notice them in the moment. But increasingly I try to take time to consciously recognise the symptoms, think about what is happening and why, and if there is anything I can do to manage or remove the stressors.
Exercise – I try to build as much walking, running, swimming and cycling into my week as possible because it helps me process information, work things through and sometimes only focus on the job in hand. Lots of good quality conversations can happen while walking particularly when the weather is good. For those of us who are office based walking and talking can bring multiple benefits.
And of course talking – I have learnt as I get older that my parents were generally right! And their advice was always that things are always worse when you bottle them up. As I have got older I am pretty good at seeking advice and counsel from friends, family, colleagues, coaches and mentors when I need it. Seeking help from a person I trust to ask the right questions and give feedback (even if I don’t want to hear it!) enables me to reach my own solutions and conclusions. I haven’t always found it easy asking for help: culturally there is so much more we can do to promote a culture where seeking and giving help is seen as – and feels like – the right thing to do.
The above article is taken from the MHFA England website