Stress Awareness Week: My Best Strategies for Managing Stress

Happy Mental Health Monday! Today is the first day of Stress Awareness Week so I thought I would share what works for me when I’m stressed. Spoiler alert: these tips don’t break the bank and don’t take too much time up.

1. Exercise

You will hear this one over and over again. If you’re depressed, you should exercise. If you’re anxious, you should exercise. If you’re stressed, do some exercise! However, it actually works for me. I play hockey once a week and that gives me a good excuse to run really fast, ignore all of my problems, and probably get some pent up aggression out in a healthy way. Add in the social aspect and my competitive streak, and it is easily the two hours a week where I definitely have nothing else on my mind.

Other ways I exercise when stressed include: riding my exercise bike, going for a walk, and cardio circuits at home. Some exercise habits can be costly but I always like to advocate for the ones that can be done at home with a YouTube video or just with a pair of trainers and the pavement/park, too. Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel good and energised. To put it simply, exercise will get the blood pumping and happy chemicals flowing when we are down, it will burn off any pent up adrenalin if we are experiencing anxiety or panic, and it gives us something else to focus on if we are overwhelmed or stressed.

2. Tea and snacks

I’m English, so there is nothing that can really top a cup of tea if I’m not feeling great. I don’t know what it is about a cup of tea but we somehow manage to apply it to every single situation and it fits like a glove. There can be a lot of advice out there about caffeine and comfort eating, but my mother always says ‘everything is good in moderation’. So if I’m stressed and maybe need to be getting on with some work regardless, I make myself a cuppa and get some biscuits or chocolate to go with it.

It can seem a very simple solution but for me, and many Brits, making tea is a hugely social thing.  Whenever I’m at work and I need to step away from my desk, all I need to do is ask whoever is next to me ‘Brew?’ and we will take a few minutes to make a drink and have a break. I often invite friends over for a cuppa just to have a catch up or a rant, and it really just reminds me to take time for myself and to listen to those around me. I don’t know why this particular drink serves that function in my little world but I’m glad  it does!

3. Writing it down

As you can tell, I’m quite a fan of writing. Sometimes it is a creative outlet and other times it is purely personal for my eyes only. Writing things down allows me to get it out of my head and into something tangible that I can make sense of. I imagine my thoughts as a big tangly mess, think Tangela from Pokemon, and by writing them down I am able to untie the knots and line things up neatly. Sometimes we just need a helicopter view of the situation so that we can move things around and figure out a solution.

Related image

Tangela, Pokemon Franchise

4. Step away

If things are getting on top of me and I think I am being overwhelmed, I will often take a break and step away from whatever it is that I’m doing. I understand that this can be a challenge and can seem like it would only add to the stress if, for example, you are facing a deadline. However, it is worth considering how productive you are being if you are feeling overwhelmed. I know that I have different levels of stress and one of them is almost total shutdown. Not in a dramatic, ‘I can’t function’ sense, but I will genuinely lose all interest and motivation and whatever I put down on paper or provide to a team member will be borderline nonsense. By stepping away I am definitely not doing any harm and it may well be more beneficial than forcing myself to keep working.

Where possible, moving away from the task at hand or the source of stress (be it an individual, a job, or a task) can do wonders for our wellbeing. Avoiding stress is something we should be trying harder to do. We often force ourselves to stay in a job with a tyrant for a manager or coworkers that don’t nurture our contributions or wellbeing because we don’t want to look like a quitter or our finances will dissolve immediately. Seriously consider the costs and benefits of staying or leaving. It could be a five minute walk, a week’s annual leave, or changing path entirely.

5. Ask for help

I spent a very long time thinking I could do things by myself. I didn’t even think that I was particularly better or stronger than those around me, I just didn’t want to be seen as someone who couldn’t function independently. Often I also managed to mask this by getting on really well with tasks, showing initiative, and succeeding under duress in a situation where they probably anticipated me needing support. I would then be left to my own devices because I was, only recently pointed out as, ‘an incredibly capable person’. So when I got stressed, I pushed on by myself. I couldn’t possibly ask for help now, what would they think? Shockingly, things would only go downhill from there.

So now I ask for help! It is not a weakness but rather a strength. Accepting that you can’t carry the world by yourself and actually showing faith in those around you can be really empowering. It might be about delegating tasks, but more often than not it is simply about asking for someone’s opinion or seeing if they have another way at going about things that is more effective. I am much less stressed when I feel a part of the team. Before, I was isolated and felt that because I had gone so far by myself I would only be looked down on or criticised for it not panning out and needing help. In actual fact, my team were more disappointed that I hadn’t been honest that I was struggling.

So these are my top 5 ways to manage stress. The take away for me has been to maintain contact with those around you. It doesn’t have to be your manager or your employer, your ‘team’ are the people that work alongside you in all walks of life. As a self-employed blogger, your team might well be all the other bloggers you talk to and work with. It might also be your partner, your parents, or your friends. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Thanks for reading!

-L x

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