Posted on: 06 November 2020
How to manage stress in daily life
Today is the last day of Stress Awareness Week 2020. Arguably, being aware of stress and its impact is more important than ever this year. The number of UK adults experiencing depression doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 85% of this group reporting that feeling stressed or anxious had affected their wellbeing.
With that in mind, we’re sharing tips on managing your stress levels day to day. However, if you constantly feel overwhelmed you should consider seeking further support. You may find useful our article on ‘Asking for help with mental wellbeing’.
What is stress?
We all experience stress as part of daily life. It’s our body’s natural response when we feel under threat – from life and death situations to an overdue library book.
But too much stress can be harmful. As the NHS website puts it, it can ‘affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable and affect our self-esteem.’
What causes stress?
Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person. A common analogy is the ‘leaky bucket’ to describe how every day, seemingly simple stresses can add up, leading to us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. If we keep adding stressors to the bucket (even tiny ones like the school run or commuting to work), over time it fills up until one day it overflows. This explains why sometimes feeling overwhelmed can seem to come out of the blue with no significant trigger.
However, what has happened is that the trigger was just a very small stressor that tipped us over the edge and allowed our bucket to overflow. What we need is a leaky bucket with lots of holes in to reduce our overall stress levels. Each one of these holes could be something positive that you do to manage your stress, such as exercise, reading, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.
How can I feel less stressed?
‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ It’s a cliché, but it happens to be true. Often just talking about what’s been on your mind can feel like a weight has lifted from your shoulders.
Bring up the subject with someone you trust and ask for their advice. Friends, family or colleagues can bring a fresh perspective and encourage you to see the problem in a different light. Even sharing a similar experience can make you feel you’re not alone.
If you can’t think of anyone suitable to talk to, check with your employer to see if they offer an Employee Assistance Programme. This is a confidential 24/7 phone line where you can speak with a trained advisor about anything that’s worrying you and get actionable advice. There’s also an option to see a professional counsellor if needed.
Look after yourself
Eating healthily, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are all crucial for our mental wellbeing, but often these routines go out the window when we’re feeling stressed. We may struggle to sleep or find time for exercise, and crave sugary or fatty foods as a short-term way of boosting our mood.
Taking small steps is a good way to start regaining control. For instance, if a vigorous exercise routine feels unrealistic right now, even a ten-minute walk in the fresh air can clear your head and burn off some nervous energy.
When we’re under stress, it can feel difficult to break out of our routines, even if they are actually part of the problem. Making small positive changes will start to reduce your stress levels and help you prioritise your mental wellbeing.