Seven ways to protect yourself from stress
Every year, the second week in May is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health. This year, the Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is something that a whopping 85% of UK adults confess to experience on a regular basis – stress. Due to the tolls of modern life it is easy to get stressed. Here are seven ways that you can help to prevent stress from occurring.
- Eat healthily
Filling your diet with leafy greens and healthy proteins can help to beat stress before it arrives. The amino acids in proteins such as turkey combat adrenaline and cortisol through producing serotonin. Fish such as salmon has anti-inflammatory properties that can help counteract the negative side effects of stress hormones. But don’t worry about giving up chocolate – as long as it’s over 70% cocoa, research has shown that the sweet treat can lower blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce cortisol.
- Beware of drinking alcohol and smoking
Aside from the well documented negative side effects, alcohol and nicotine both effect the nervous system in a way that means it is much easier for you to get stressed. Smoking increases blood pressure, and the ethanol in alcohol can cause damage to brain neurotransmitters and cause anxiety. If you find you are often stressed, it may be time to give up smoking or further moderate your alcohol intake.
Getting your body moving can reduce fatigue and improve alertness and concentration. Additionally, it can also improve your ability to sleep, these are all elements that help to relieve or combat stress in themselves. Scientists have found that, “regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”
- Take time out
If you feel yourself beginning to get stressed or you know that there is a stressful situation approaching, ensure that you take time to yourself to get your mind in the right place. Stepping outside and getting some fresh air can help you organise your thoughts, whereas talking to a friend or colleague can help get a fresh view of a situation.
- Be mindful
Mindfulness is the practice of understanding “directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.” Stress can be held at bay with mindfulness as it allows you to become aware of exactly what is going on and feel more in control of a situation. "Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience," says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, "and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.”
- Get restful sleep
Sleep is the human equivalent of turning a machine off and on again. It resets your brain and allows you to function better. Getting a restful sleep will allow you to see situations clearly and react accordingly. Good sleep will also improve your mood and make you less likely to see stressful situations in a negative light.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
In can be easy to blame yourself and dwell on your mistakes, but this can only be a detriment to both your wellbeing and any challenging situation that presents itself. It is important to understand that you are only human. If you cannot alleviate the pressure you put on yourself solo, talk through the situation with a friend or colleague and let them reassure you. Everyone makes mistakes.
If you are struggling with stress or anxiety, there are many charities such as Anxiety UK or Samaritans that have 24 hour helplines to offer you emotional support and advice. Don’t suffer in silence, call 0844 775 774 to speak to someone at Anxiety UK or 116 123 for Samaritans.