Managing Stress Helps Mind and Body
Stress is increasingly being recognised as a condition which needs to be acknowledged and managed. It is accepted internationally that stress is a primary cause of mental ill-health and physical illness, with enormous financial and human costs to industry, families and individuals alike. On the one hand, a certain amount of stress can be good – it helps motivate us to produce our best. In fact 90% of people surveyed by Mental Health Ireland acknowledged that stress was a constant part of their life. – but that they are able to cope. However, too much stress, that is stress out of control or unmanaged, can seriously affect our health.
10 Steps to reduce Stress
This will keep you on the road to good mental health and well-being
Learn what stress is and its effects on the body. Stress is the response of the body to demands placed on it; the level of pressure will determine whether you can cope or not. Learn to identify your own signs of stress and what causes you stress.
Good health stems from both mental and physical well-being. A well balanced diet enables the mind and the body to cope better with stress.
A reasonable amount of exercise is essential to keep your mind in peak form also. No Olympic Gold or Silver medals – just regular exercise, walking (take the stairs; walk to the shops, leave the car behind for short journeys), aerobics, swimming, cycling all help.
Before going to bed take at least a half an hour to unwind. A brisk walk around the block, maybe. However, a warm bath and a warm milky drink are a great help (Hands up everyone whose mammy prescribed a cup of hot milk going to bed?!!). And avoid tea, coffee or heavy meals last thing at night.
Plan your day – and be realistic about what you can achieve in the day. When you know difficult situations are coming your way, think also of positive ways you can get a bit of relaxation or leisure into the day as well. And look back to see how much planning helped and learn lessons for next time.
think about how you deal with problems. Is your approach to solving problems helpful or unhelpful to yourself – in other words do you put yourself under stress when you have problems to solve. Work on ways of improving your problem-solving ability – and don’t be shy about asking for help in dealing with problems if you feel you need it.
Nobody is superhuman all of the time! Make sure you have a few people around that you can rely on as ‘safety valves’- your supervisor or pals in the office, someone you play golf or go to the theatre or sports events with occasionally, a neighbour or family member. Just keep contact with a few reliable people whose opinions you value and who have a sympathetic ear, if ever you feel you need that extra lift.
Time for yourself:
Call in the reinforcements! Build in a little reward or reinforcement within your day – something to look forward to that will give you a lift. Slip on the earphones and listen to favourite music, bang a bucket of balls in the driving range, or potter at a bit of DIY, a soak in the bath, with a good book and the kids and life locked outside the bathroom door for a little while, a game of cards, a little painting or sketching, an evening class…… You choose. It’s your time for you.
Life is to be enjoyed; not just endured. Developing interests and activities outside the work setting (whether that’s the home, the office, the factory, the car or truck) is tremendously beneficial – and will help compensate for areas of your interests or personality not fulfilled through work.
The ability to relax does not necessarily come naturally. You may think you are relaxed and be unaware of a higher than average level of muscle tension in the body. Try to recognise the variation of tension in your body and then plan the best ways for you to develop relaxation. For one person it might be whacking a squash ball around the court; for another it might be a swim or simply sitting with eyes shut listening to music or participating in some of the other leisure activities we’ve already mentioned.