10 ways self-care can help beat stress

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We all get stressed, it’s part of life, but when it takes over, it is a sign that you need to take action. A UK-wide stress survey by The Mental Health Foundation found that almost three-quarters of adults (74%) have felt so stressed over the past year that they have become overwhelmed or unable to cope. Stress can be improved by building emotional strength and that is about gaining control over a situation that is causing you worry.

Here are things you can put into place that will improve your stress management and put you in a more positive frame of mind so you can work towards a solution.

1. Get active

Being active inside or out can make us feel more grounded and calm and is proven to lower the levels of the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol. Being around nature in particular can enhance your mental health, whether this is just a short walk in your local green space, a wander through a forest, or even getting out into the garden and doing some weeding. It can help you focus, improve sleep and feel calmer so you can better manage your stress.

2. Take control

If there is one thing that can improve stress it is feeling empowered to act and change your situation. If you think you cannot do anything about your problem, this loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.

3. Connect with people

Having friends, family or colleagues around you to discuss any worries you have is essential. Not only do they provide alternative viewpoints or solutions, but being able to talk things through can help you gain clarity, relax, and ultimately help relieve feelings of stress.

4. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness offers an opportunity to stop, breathe, focus and ground yourself. It can be helpful to calm intrusive thoughts or scattered thinking. Why not take an opportunity to step away from your desk, rather than walking aimlessly, take a few moments to observe your environment. Notice all the different sounds like birds, leaves rustling, voices in the distance, earthy smells. Focus on the view in front of you and tune in to the sensation of the breeze on your skin. Breathe deeply and enjoy the stillness. It might not solve all your problems, but gives you a chance to reset your mind so you are better equipped to manage your stress.

5. Eat, sleep, repeat

Lack of sleep is another threat to wellbeing. Often stress can disrupt sleeping habits and this will impact your body’s ability to regulate cortisol, leading to high blood pressure. Quality sleep is also crucial for maintaining healthy levels of hormones that control appetite and blood glucose levels, so it pays to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. Exercise, a warm bath, unplugging from social media at least two hours before bed, and reading can all help you to unwind and give your body the signals it needs to prepare you for sleep.

6. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion and self-care are things we can all do to help ourselves. Try not to give yourself a hard time for feeling low, the chances are the situation is only temporary and there will be a resolution eventually. Ask yourself ‘what do I really need right now?’ and see what comes up: maybe it’s a change of environment – step out into the garden; or you need to move your body – have a good stretch or go for a walk. It might be that you need to have some human connection in which case, ask a friend over for a cuppa; or simply give yourself a free pass to have a duvet day. Think about how you might treat a friend who was feeling low and apply this to yourself – be gentle and caring.

7. Have some “me time”

Instances of employee burnout are on the rise, and gender and age play a role in this prevalence; women and young people are more likely to report feeling prone to extreme stress or work pressures. One way to combat this is to take some time to do things you enjoy; this might be taking a walk, socialising, exercising, cooking, watching a movie or taking a holiday or long weekend break.

8. Get organised

Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that’ll make a real difference. Getting organised and managing your time better can all help you feel more productive and in control. Sometimes, it is a matter of accepting that you can’t complete everything – and that’s fine too.

9. Set yourself a challenge

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language, hobby or sport, can help build confidence. This may help you deal with stress better.

10. Build healthy habits

Turning to things like alcohol, caffeine or smoking is never going to help in the long term. Instead, starting a new hobby, taking up exercise or helping others can be a confidence booster and take your mind off your stressors.

If your company offers an Employee Assistance Programme, or digital wellbeing platform, make use of it and get the help you need, when you need it. Remember, there are resources available online from websites like the charity Mind, and mental health services such as Kooth or Shout offer text-based support too.

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