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Self-Help Strategies to Control Stress

To mark national stress awareness day, Rockliffe Hall's Wellbeing Manager Peter Bell has put together his top self-help strategies...

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them...

When prolonged it has been identified that stress is one of the main factors leading to both physical and psychological damage, including anxiety and depression. (NHS)  

Understanding what happens to the body when you are stressed

Chronic or long-term stress creates a problem with your stress hormones if you are frequently excessively under pressure. You are constantly drip feeding the hormones Cortisol and Adrenalin into the body, which creates a negative effect. Adrenalin increases your heart rate and blood pressure, cortisol increases glucose in the blood, preparing your cells for a sugar rush. Over long periods of stress this can lower immunity, cause illness, and reduce life expectancy.

Understanding how stress effects people differently is critical for stress management. What stresses one person may not affect the other, factors like skills and experience, age or disability all affect whether someone can cope.

Causes of Stress 

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Bereavement
  • Moving house
  • Finances
  • Divorce
  • Poor physical health
  • Bullying
  • Family and friends
  • Poor behaviour
  • Travel
  • Personal issues

Emotional Effects

  • Anxious
  • Angry
  • Lack of concentration
  • Low self esteem
  • Sad
  • Frustrated
  • Loneliness
  • Overwhelmed
  • Constant worrying  
  • Racing thoughts

Physical Effects

These can include chest pains, nausea, muscle tension, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness. This can lead to health risks such as:  

  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.
  • Cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Immune system problems, which can lower resistance to infection and skin conditions.
  • Digestive problems such as appetite loss, stomach ulcers, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Excessive change in behaviour such as alcohol or substance abuse.  

Self-help strategies

  • If stress is starting to become a problem, realise that it is OK not to be OK and by suffering from the emotional effects of stress is not a weakness, but it is a strength to recognise this and identify the underlying causes.
  • Avoid self-stigma with stress, do not show an unconscious bias, (which includes, feeling a failure or that you have let everyone down) towards yourself because you are suffering from stress. 
  • Build your emotional strength and re-organise your lifestyle to tackle the causes, this can be achieved by connecting with supportive non-judgemental family and friends, who are good listeners, as the saying goes, we all need a shoulder to cry on!
  • Set goals and challenges to help build your confidence and acknowledge your own achievements.
  • Cut out unhealthy habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, if you feel you need a drink try alcohol free.
  • Eat a healthy diet as this can help break the negative cycle, having a positive effect on your body and making you feel better about yourself, which can improve your self-resilience.
  • Help other people, this is a powerful tool to increase your feeling of self-worth, it is well documented that by helping other people can help put problems into perspective.
  • Participate in an exercise activity you feel you will enjoy, forcing yourself into an activity you particularly do not like could result in non-compliance. Exercise releases feel good hormones, which can help counter stress hormones.
  • Learn to relax, this could be active relaxation, such as a scenic walk, in which you experience the moment of experiencing the scenery. Or this could be non-active, enjoying a book, listening to your favourite tunes, or having a Netflix fest.
  • Clear your mind and focus on a good night sleep.

Stress can lead to serious mental health problems and there are some very good organisations which can provide advice and support: Mind, NHS Choices, and HSE.