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What can I do to cope with stress?

Realise when it is causing you a problem

Make the connection between how you are feeling and the pressures you face. Take note of physical warnings such as tense muscles, over-tiredness, headaches, digestive problems or migraines.

Identify what you can change

Sort what's causing your stress into things you can fix, things that will get better anyway, and things you can't do anything about. Try to let go of the second and third groups – there's no point worrying about things you can't change or things that will sort themselves out.

Review your lifestyle

Are you doing too much? Can you hand some things to someone else? Can you take more time to do some things? You may need to prioritise things so that you don't try to do everything at once.

Eat healthily

As well as affecting our weight and physical health, what we eat and drink can affect our mood. Make sure you are getting enough of the essential vitamins, minerals and water your brain needs.

Try to keep smoking and drinking to a minimum

FDP Asian woman on beachExercise

Physical exercise can really help to relieve stress. Even something like walking to the shops can help. Talk to your GP about a Green Prescription.

Take time to relax

Taking time off now could stop you having to take time off later because you are sick. Find a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself.

Learn relaxation techniques

These techniques can help to ease some of the physical symptoms of stress, and help you feel less pressured.

Sort out personal conflicts

Continuing conflict with people who are important to you is very stressful. It can increase your risk of getting depressed, especially if you have had a difficult relationship for a long time, and it feels like you can't do anything to make it better.

Manage work stress

Stress is often work-related. If work isn't going well, you may need to create more of a balance between work and the things you enjoy doing.

People are more likely to feel stressed at work if they feel they can't control their workload or make any changes. Even small changes can help to relieve the pressure. Could you cut your hours, shift some responsibilities to colleagues or talk to your boss about a difficult situation? Some workplaces offer limited free counselling or mediation services, which may help.

If your work environment is unsupportive, try talking to a close friend or counsellor about the challenges, and brainstorm things that could help. Making some of the changes mentioned above might help you cope better with work pressures. People who feel very trapped can often end up depressed or anxious. If this is how you feel, see your GP to talk about your options.

Be mindful

Mindfulness meditation helps to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and symptoms like insomnia, poor concentration and low mood. And you can do it anywhere at any time!

Get some restful sleep

Sleeping problems are common when you're suffering from stress. For tips about how to get a good night's sleep see Tips for sleeping well (sleep hygiene).

Have fun!

Enjoying yourself is one of the best antidotes to stress. Bring some fun into your life by giving yourself treats and rewards for positive actions, attitudes and thoughts.

Keep things in proportion

Don't be too hard on yourself. After all, we all have bad days.

Live a balanced life

Check out the Five ways to wellbeing

On the next page: Who can help me cope with stress?

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. July 2014.

Sources

See also:

Mental wellbeing

Reading in Mind book scheme

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Page reference: 111505

Review key: HISTS-111503