Wednesday, 7 January 2015

How to Cope with Stress

What is Stress and How Can You Manage it?

stress relax signpost from pixabay
Stress Relax signpost image from

It is impossible to avoid stress in modern society, everyone suffers from it to a greater or lesser degree.  So, if it can't be avoided, we need to learn a few strategies to cope with it.  I hope these tips on stress management are helpful.

What is Stress?    Stress was, and is, a response to danger, the 'fight or flight response'.  In days when we were hunter-gatherers, it got us away from danger.  Today, stress occurs when body is INAPPROPRIATEDLY held in a 'fight or flight' response over a period of time. Certain things happen in the body when it enters this 'fight or flight response'. 

1) the adrenal glands increase production of adrenaline 2) blood sugar is released into the blood stream to produce instant energy 3) the heart rate increases and the blood pressure rises 4) breathing becomes more rapid 5) the muscles tense ready for action 6) the body 'shuts down' non essential activities like digestion and some hormone productionWhile this is fine in the short term, stress tends to be accumulative, and damage occurs when, what is intended to be a short-term response, forces the body into long-term changes.How Can You Tell if Stress is Adversely Affecting You?  These are symptoms to look out for:1) tension, aches and pains in muscles 2) headaches 3) feeling of helplessness or hopelessness 4) difficulty in sleeping 5) poor concentration 6) mood changes 7) fatigue, irritability, weeping or restlessness. 8) Palpitations 9) digestive problems from indigestion to constipation & diarrheoa 10) frequent colds & flu are also common as stress affects the immune system. 11) more severe problems include ulcers, stroke and heart attack.

Stress management doesn't have to be complicated. There are many books and articles available. but essentially you are aiming to reverse the effects on the body noted above. So you want to bring down your blood pressure and your pulse rate, relax muscles and get rid of the resulting toxins within them, and level off sugar and hormone levels in the blood. 

To do that, these are some simple tips that might help.   

  1. Rest when you can, if you can't sleep at night, take power naps during the day.  
  2. Take a healthy diet free of caffeine, sugars, bad fats and processed foods.  
  3. Get outside for at least ten minutes every day since light stimulates the pineal gland in the brain.  
  4. Take some gentle exercise and learn some breathing techniques.  
  5. Create a time and space for yourself, that may be in having a bath with fragrant oils, or simply a time away from family when you cannot be disturbed.   
  6. Try to think positively, I know at the moment that is especially hard.  
  7. Talk to people, tell them you are not coping and see if they can take some pressure off you.  
  8. Join a class for tai chi or yoga, both of these teach you relaxation techniques but there are also excellent articles available on the internet to lead you through some calming exercises. 

Short Relaxation technique to combat stress

One of the very best things for stress is learning relaxation, in learning how to get the body to relax, the muscles to relax, the breathing to slow, the blood pressure to lower and the heart rate to lower.  

While you are the midst of a stressful situation is probably when you need it most, so practice at home taking short or one minute meditations that you can apply when you are actually in a stressful situation like in the car or at work. 

For this: 

  1.  just look down at your desk, you don't have to close your eyes so no-one will be aware of what you are doing.  
  2. Take three really deep breaths, filling your lungs completely and emptying them completely.  
  3. If you can do so unobtrusively, breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, it doesn't have to be an noisy exhale.  
  4. Take your awareness, your attention, to the centre of your chest and for a minute just watch each breath as it enters and leaves your lungs. 
  5. As you breathe in imagine taking in peace.
  6.  Every time you breathe out, imagine you are letting go of a little bit more tension.  
  7. Be aware that each time you breathe out you can let go the tension in your neck and shoulders, just concentrate on letting the muscles relax.  
  8. You can repeat this as often as you need and in time the first three deep breaths will act as a trigger for your body to relax.

There is always professional help available too.  Try reflexology or aromatherapy or perhaps you can find, or start, a meditation group in your area.  Most of all, realize you are not alone, and, rather than being helpless in the face of stress, you too can learn to cope with it.

I'll be back with more ways of coping with stress in later posts



  1. Great advice here for dealing with stress!

  2. Good advice and very useful for everyone to implement. The meditation/breathing technique you describe is similar to one I know and can be very effective.

  3. Great tips Anne - we are killing ourselves with stress, people need to learn how to manage it better!

    I'm also on a campaign to undermine the cult of 'multi-tasking' since I believe it only results in jobs poorly done and no sense of setisfaction = more stress