- Write it down. Keep a diary or a list - for at least two weeks – make notes of events, times, places and people that seem to make you feel more stressed. You will be surprised to find how quickly a pattern emerges; and this may be linked to time pressure, personality clashes, inappropriate demands or simply trying to do too many things at once.
Once you have identified your pressure points you can move on to the following...
- Talk about it, you are not alone. Talk through your diary with your partner or friends – just the act of talking about things will often make you feel better. Ask for impartial advice as to how to ease the problems that you have discovered, or choose the sort of stressful situations that you have identified to use the following relaxation techniques.
- Relax. Practice deep-breathing techniques such as slowly inhaling while counting to five; hold your breath for five seconds then breathe out slowly. Repeat this 10 times when feeling stressed, anxious or angry, concentrating on nothing but your breathing.
Stretch the muscles of your neck and shoulders by keeping your shoulders level and trying to touch each shoulder with your ear. Look right up at the ceiling, down at the floor and then rotate each shoulder in a wide circle. Repeat five times. Open and close your jaw widely after each time since stress often causes tenseness in the jaw area.
Take time out. For five minutes every hour, try to 'shut down' and get away from your work area, make the coffee or do something which makes you move around. You will be surprised at how effectively this can lower stress levels.
- Exercise. You don’t have to be a gym freak to get the stress-beating benefits of exercise. Just a 20 minute walk, three times a week, will help to reduce stress as well as promoting restful sleep. That’s just a walk to the shop instead of driving.
- Take a break, (Kit Kat optional). The aim here is to allow time for the unexpected ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquistion"). Get up 15 minutes earlier than you think you need to and prepare for the day without rushing. Even better, get things ready the night before.
Try to have 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon that is exclusively 'you' time, in which you can do whatever you want, even if it is simply sitting doing nothing. Look forward to these times when things get busy and if you are unable to use them always remember to 'catch up' later on.
...AND FIVE MORE SIMPLE STRESS RELIEVERS
- Stretch. If you are sat down all day or remain in the same position standing, try sitting upright on a chair, and keeping your back straight, extend your arms out in front of you as far as possible. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat, with your arms behind you. Then hold on to the sides of your chair and push your body upwards. Feel your spine stretch. Hold for ten. Now stretch arms to the ceiling, to release tension in your back and shoulders. Relax and shake your arms.
- Smell something nice. Certain aromas are thought to activate the production of the brain's feel-good chemical, Serotonin - chocolate, for example, (although there is research that suggests the benefits of aromatherapy is more to do with the power of suggestion). Drip a few drops of the following aromatherapy oils on a tissue to sniff when you feel stress levels rising: jasmine, neroli, lavender, chamomile, vetiver, clary sage.
- Spring, summer, autumn and winter cleans. Mess creates confusion and a sense of loss of power. If your desk/home/car is messy and disorganised, have a good clear out and tidy up. You'll instantly feel more in control although you may not be able to find anything anymore!
- Have a change for the good. Many stresses are habitual. If you start to feel stressed or anxious do something about it. Stop what you're doing and do something else such as the suggestions above.
- Be positive (Always look on the bright side of life!) Use positive thoughts and try to put them into words. Repeating a positive phrase over and over again can work wonders - say it, believe it, and it will become true. Failing that sing the Monty Python classic to yourself.
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