No sweat: top tips to deal with stress and create a calmer life this year
Are your plans for 2023 leaving you feeling a tad overwhelmed? You’re not alone. The mental health charity Mind saw a 50% increase in log-ins to its community platform, Side by Side, between 2020 and 2022.
Stress is a very common problem for those seeking support with Mind, and as a charity partner of Virgin Red, members can use their points to donate to Mind and support the charity’s vital work. This includes raising awareness of stress, and the effect it can have on our wellbeing.
So, how can we better cope with the outside and internal pressures everyday life brings? Here are some ideas from Mind, based on therapeutic advice and the lived experience of those they support.
Build a good support network
If you’re feeling stressed, it can be instinctive to retreat – either because you don’t feel like being around others, or you’re putting pressure on yourself to be “perfect” and soldier on, come what may.
But it’s important to remember that – from your GP to a therapist, loved ones or work colleagues – the people around you are ready to help. And it can often feel like a relief just to share how you’re feeling.
Since stress is caused by a range of situational and emotional factors, who you choose to be in your support network may vary. If you’re dealing with stress at work, for instance, Mind recommends speaking to your manager about setting realistic targets, or reducing your workload.
For issues closer to home – e.g. financial worries, or bereavement – speaking to friends and family can help. Your loved ones may be able to help you work out how stressed you are, and the things that are triggering you, for example.
Those closest to you are likely to be the first to recognise if you’re struggling, too. Mind has the following tips on how family and friends can offer their support if someone they care for confides in them:
Learn a little bit about mental health
Take a deep breath and think about what not to say
Prepare to ask how things are – and to listen genuinely to the response
Signpost your loved one to Mind
Do what you can to help
Give yourself a break
Simple things can make a big difference when you’re feeling stressed. Sometimes, just being kind to yourself and giving yourself more leeway to deal with life’s challenges can be surprisingly effective.
For example, if work stress is getting to you, Mind suggests taking short breaks throughout the day, and also taking time off for a holiday – to help you re-focus on your life outside work. You might also want to try balancing your schedule better, so you’re focusing on one task at a time rather than attempting to tackle everything at once.
When it comes to life pressures more generally, there may be lots of things that stand outside your control. But it is worth thinking about practical ways you could take or resolve or improve some of the issues that are causing you stress.
For example, if you’re a carer, you may spend a lot of your time focusing on someone else; which can easily end up with you feeling drained and like you have no time at all for yourself.
In this situation, as with other life pressures, it’s useful to talk about how you feel, ask for help if you need it, look after your physical health, and make time for yourself. Even something as simple as a daily 20-minute walk outdoors could make a positive difference.
Another thing to consider, says Mind, is that situations often thought of as “happy events” – e.g. getting married, moving house or having a baby – can also cause stress. This can be particularly difficult to deal with, because you might feel there's additional pressure on you to be positive.
Being aware of these pressures and how they’re affecting you is a good first step to creating more space to deal with them as they arise. For example, if other people giving you baby advice is creating worry for you in your pregnancy, can you put up boundaries around how – and from whom – you receive this kind of information?
Make some lifestyle changes
It’s also a good idea to look at your life more generally – and assess where changes can be made to help you feel less pressure. Practising being assertive, and saying “no” to unrealistic or unreasonable demands, is one way that Mind recommends to do this.
For example, you may decide to create regular “rest days” where you are accountable to fewer people (even friends or family) and can simply focus on relaxing and being in the moment. Or you could make a list of all the commitments you have in your life, from date nights to school runs or work demands, to assess what tasks you really enjoy and what is important – versus what can be shared, or even taken off completely.
Getting more active can also be a very useful way of reducing daily stress; whether that’s a lunchtime jog, an after-work yoga class or a stroll in the park with friends. From practising breathing more deeply, or getting more sleep, there are lots of little ways that can help you decompress and relax more.
For more information on stress, check out Mind’s pages on what stress is all about, its causes, some common signs of stress and good coping mechanisms – including developing emotional resilience. You can also have a look at their round-up of organisations that’ll offer support for dealing with stress.
As a member of Virgin Red, you can earn points on your everyday spending and spend them on rewards, including donations to over a dozen local and national charities like Mind. Here’s to a calmer 2023.