10 tips to reduce your stress

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According to the Health and Safety Executive stress is :
“The reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them. It arises when they worry the cannot cope.”

The HSE distinguish between stress and pressure. Pressure is seen as positive and improves our performance. However, when pressure becomes too much or too prolonged it turns to stress. It is important therefore that we try to achieve a balance. We need to feel stimulated and involved but need to act to ensure that our pressures do not get too great or accumulate.

The HSE definition does not however take the concept of perception into the equation. As different people perceive the same event in different ways this is extremely important. For example, some people will see an event such as public speaking as extremely stressful while others will see it as a challenge. We therefore can cause our own stress by the way we perceive a situation. – The way we see life, our perceptions may affect our receptivity to stress.

Exposure to prolonged or extreme pressure whether real or perceived can lead to behavioural changes and to physical and psychological problems.

Causes of stress may be short term, longer term or ongoing. Short term pressures are pressures which are short lived and from which we can easily recover e.g. a traffic jam or a disagreement with a teenage daughter. Longer term and on going pressures are more of a problem as we have less opportunity to recover. For example caring for an elderly or sick relative can have a great effect on our health and well being as the stressor is there continuously and we perceive we have no respite.

So what can we do ?

Try to manage your balance between pressure and stress by adapting your behaviour and thinking. Also make sure you take time out to recover from the pressures you find yourself under. Exercise and relaxation are paramount.

Tips for preventing pressure turning to stress

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle – If we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ensure we get adequate rest our body is better able to cope with stress should it occur.

2. Know your limitations and do not take on too much. We cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we do not like to say no to people. We like people to like us and do not want to let people down. We then end up doing more than we should. Learn to be assertive and how to say no without upsetting or offending people.

3. Determine what causes you stress and try to change your behaviour to reduce it

4. Avoid unnecessary conflict. Don’t be too argumentative. Is it really worth the stress? Look for win – win situations. Look for a solution to a dispute where both parties can achieve a positive outcome.

5. Learn to manage your time more effectively – We waste a lot of time doing unimportant tasks. Prioritise your day and do the important jobs first. The unimportant ones can wait, and often they will disappear completely leaving you time to do other things. Also do not put off the unpleasant tasks. Every time we think about them we cause ourselves stress. Give an unpleasant task a high priority and do it first.

6. Practice saying No without feeling guilty

7. Take time out to relax and recharge your batteries – You will perform much better after a break and easily make up the time you used relaxing.

8. Try to see things differently – If something is bothering you try to see it differently. Talk over your problem with somebody before it gets out of proportion. Often, talking to somebody else will help you see things from a different and less stressful perspective. Try to see the funny side of a situation. Laughter is a great stress reducer.
Accept the things you cannot change. – When things cause us stress, try to change the situation. Sometimes however, this is not possible. If this proves to be the case recognise this and accept things as they are.

9. Find time to meet friends. Friends help us see things in a different way. The activities we engage in with friends usually help us relax and we will often have a good laugh. Laughter is a great stress reducer. It boosts the immune system which is often depleted during stress. If you do become stressed engage in some form of physical activity and relaxation technique. Physical activity will work off the biochemical and physical changes that occur within your body due to stress. Relaxation helps your body return to its normal healthy state. Good relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, massage and a variety of complimentary therapies.

10. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as coping mechanisms. – Long term, these faulty coping mechanisms will just add to the problem. For example, caffeine is a stimulant and our body reacts to this with the stress response.

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