Stress is a big problem in the UK, with the majority of people experiencing some level of stress at different points in their lives. People may live with stress for short periods or some for many years, others might not even realise they are stressed. Many people reach the point when they burn out and have to be signed off of work due to stress, often due to work-related stress. Stress wreaks havoc on a person, affecting mental and physical health. Stress can further lead to anxiety and depression, but has also links to IBS, heart attacks and many other health problems. Stress is how our body and mind responds to pressure from a situation or a life event, though what contributes to it may vary from person to person. One thing is certain – we are all susceptible to becoming stressed.
So, what can we do about it? There is a variety of resources and support available, including counselling or other forms of therapy, self-help and mindfulness to name a few. Stress an be overwhelming, but there are ways of coping and managing the stress levels that can help improve your quality of life.
It really depends on the individual, what works for one might not work for another. It can also depend on the source of stress, someone worried about an upcoming, potentially positive, change in their life might benefit from a different level of help than someone experiencing stress (or even anxiety) due to relationship issues or bereavement.
Let's explore some stress solutions that might work for you.
Mindfulness is becoming very popular in recent years, due to our society becoming increasingly aware or mental health problems, and many people living with a feeling of disconnection from a day to day life.
Mindfulness suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, and to the space that you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
Practising mindfulness can help you to become more aware of your thoughts, help to stop you from immediately reacting to a situation, and it can help you to focus better too. There are many benefits to mindfulness, with the main one (in my opinion) being the fact that you get to know yourself better. This in turn with the techniques can help you cope better with the negative effects of stress.
Shift Counselling offers mindfulness workshops well suited for those struggling with work-related stress, or those wishing to gain skills and strategies to help better deal with stress on an everyday basis.
Stress is often defined as bodily response to the demands of life, but there are also emotional and mental aspects of stress. Counsellors often help people reduce and manage their stress as part of counselling. Counselling can also help people work through other issues that have developed while coping with high levels of stress over a period of time.
People may develop methods of coping with stress, however some of these might be unhealthy and can increase the negative effects of stress rather than help them. Therapy can help people explore their thoughts, feelings, and talk about their experience with stress and the impact it's having on them. Many of my clients find it helpful to talk about stress and the roots of it. We can work together to reduce your stress levels and find ways of dealing with stress in a more positive way. In a way we would work together to find the causes of your stress and find your personal stress solution.
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, it improves physical condition and can improve some mental health conditions, but it is also vital for maintaining mental fitness. Exercise is effective in reducing fatigue, improving concentration and can improve cognitive function. It's also particularly helpful when stress has depleted your energy and ability to focus.
Stress affects the brain, which then impacts the rest of the body. So if your body feels better, so could your mind. Physical activity produces endorphins, the happy hormones, which impact us in a positive way – they improve your mood and can help you sleep, and in turn reduce feelings of stress.
Even five minutes of exercise can improve your overall well-being. Many of my clients said that exercise is a good stress solution outside of the counselling room. The type of exercise really depends on what you find enjoyable, some people like to do yoga to help them relax, others turn to zumba to dance it out, or go jogging. It can really help to channel the negative energy in this way, as exercise can help you focus on the now and lower your stress level.
Finally, there's self-care. It's important to try look after yourself as much as possible and do things for yourself. It can be hard to find time for yourself, but it is necessary and not something to feel guilty about.
The nice thing about self-care is that it can be anything that makes you feel good – exercise, healthy eating, relaxing baths, watching your favourite show or reading a book. When you feel stressed or anxious, it's common to lose the will to do this kind of thing, which makes us feel worse in the long run.
I like to tell my clients to try treating themselves like they would treat a loved one. You deserve to take time for yourself. At the very least try to get enough sleep every night and take a moment to rest when you need to. Think about when you find relaxing, what makes you feel alive and happy, and find time to do more of it when you can. It can even be something as small, like making yourself a cup of tea and taking the time to drink it while it's still hot.
Self-care is about looking after yourself, you deserve better than to burn out. So, take the steps to look after yourself, you are worth it!
If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or any other mental health condition, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Though it may sometimes feel impossible, you can get better.