Over 44% of us suffer from stress on a regular basis. And according to the latest stats from the Health and Safety Executive show that over 488,000 people had work-related stress last year – especially those who work in healthcare, education and the armed forces. So how can we keep stress under control? How can we spot signs of stress? Here’s a mini guide to recognising and coping with stress.
What causes stress?
The things that cause us stress in life can be split into five categories: Personal, Money, Housing, Job / School and Relationships. Stress can be triggered by anything such as a huge life-changing event or a series of smaller incidences building up. Take a look at this quick summary on how these areas of your life can cause stress:
- Personal: Bereavement, long-term illness, short-term illness, having a baby, organising a big event.
- Money: Debt, income, poverty, paying rent on time, covering bills on time.
- Housing: Nightmare neighbours, moving house, renovations, bad housing conditions
- Job / School: Redundancy, being dismissed, long-term unemployment, bullying, deadlines, starting a new job/career path, retirement.
- Friendships / Relationships: planning a wedding, moving in together, being controlled by a partner, breakups/divorce, tricky relationships with relatives, providing care for a sick, vulnerable or elderly relative
As you can see, even the ‘good events’ such as getting married, having a baby, starting a brand new job and planning a family holiday can all cause stress if you’re not careful. That brings us to the next section – how do you know you’re stressed?
The signs of stress
There are actually three different areas of stress symptoms: Behavioural, Feelings and Physical. Here are a few of the more common signs of stress:
- Behavioural: difficulty in making decisions, can’t concentrate, loss of appetite, bigger appetite, smoking, taking drugs or drinking more, nail-biting, picking at your skin or pulling your hair, avoiding people, crying.
- Feelings: Hopelessness, depressed, lack of interest in activities you normally love, dread, anxiousness, nervousness, irritable, aggressive, impatient, tense, can’t switch off, lonely.
- Physical: Insomnia, tiredness, nausea, headaches, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, digestive problems, hyperventilating, lack of libido.
We know this doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs, but there are so many ways you can prevent burnout or stress before it even happens.
How can I keep stress under control?
The first thing you should do is identify what is causing your stress. Just take a look at the causes of stress above and identify which ones are a regular occurrence in your life or even just one-off events that always seem to be niggling away at your mind.
Realising what your ‘trigger’ is can show you just how much you’re stretching yourself or spreading yourself thin. That’s why you should make a plan to organise your time, work out what time of day you’re most productive and create a to-do list or schedule around that. Make sure your list is varied so tasks don’t get too monotonous and make sure you’re only doing one thing at a time. Give yourself regular breaks and you’ll find your to-do list is done in next to no time!
But if you’re stressed about things beyond your control – you need to remind yourself that there are some things you can’t change. This might sound negative – but it’s actually a very positive thing to do when combatting stress.
Top tips on dealing with stress
Here are a few tips and tricks that can work very well at preventing stress or de-stressing if you’re already stressed!
- Listen to particular playlists. Studies show that listening to music that makes you feel ‘positive nostalgia’ can be a great way to de-stress. Discovering new music is also a great way to take your mind off your worries.
- Shower or bath. We know most people will tell you to relax with a nice big bubble bath but showers can also reduce stress too. Apparently, the scents of soap and shower gel can calm the mind – and feeling fresh and clean can boost your mood overall, making you feel a lot less sluggish.
- Meditation. We know it doesn’t work for some, but meditation can help you breathe properly. Stress can cause shallow breathing, which just makes you feel even tenser than ever before. Meditation encourages you to be conscious of your breathing and gives you a natural rush after as little as 7 minutes. Start with the Calm app, a guided 10-minute meditation tool. You can also check out Health ambition. They have written a fantastic article with 15 ways to relax under 5 minutes. You can check it out here.
- See friends. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. It might seem like you don’t have the time to see friends because you’re so stressed out about everything. But hanging out with friends can reduce stress, help you improve your mood and make you more productive in the long run – especially if you tend to laugh a lot with your friends!
- Be more active: We don’t mean hitting the treadmill every day, (but if you want to then by all means!) but going for a walk every other day can really clear your mind and help you balance your life.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Stressed people tend to berate themselves for being stressed, which makes them even more stressed in the long-run. Treat yourself to your favourite magazine, food or movie because you deserve it.
- Try and make up with people. Stress can cause a lot of arguments with loved ones. Try and sort out any conflicts you have, admit your mistakes, apologise and move on.
- Let your employers know. Work-related stress is a huge one for the UK – so letting your boss or HR manager know you’re stressed can go a long way. Most businesses are making an active effort to support their employees suffering from mental health problems.