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// Lifestyle & health

Tips for managing stress (Pt 1)

By Suzanne Ashworth, Visiting Development Manager, FirstPort

In a career before FirstPort, I spent many years teaching adults in community settings and one of the most popular courses I ran was ‘Managing Stress’ – here are a few things I learnt along the way!

It doesn’t matter if the reasons you feel stressed are work-related, because you have too much going on at home, you have a broken heart, or you’re just a bit bored and down, the symptoms affect everyone in similar ways.

Physically, stress can make you feel extra tired, generally under the weather or simply overwhelmed by everything – unfortunately, long-term stress does lead to health problems of many kinds and lowers your resistance to any bugs going around. How many of us go down with a cold or other illness the moment we stop and take a break from the usual daily routine?

Mentally, being stressed makes everything harder to deal with and can show itself in our behaviour – getting snappy or irritable, just not caring about things or wanting to shut ourselves away completely.

Be aware of what you do when you are stressed – we all succumb to habits that actually make things worse – eating too much or not at all, turning to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or addictive activities… you will know what you do!

It is even more important to think about what makes you feel better! This can be different for each one of us – mindfulness works for some, fresh air and exercise for others, while being with people and talking about things is important for us all.

From all the many courses I ran and the varying people who attended, the strongest message that came across was to be kind to yourself! If you don’t look after you, then you cannot keep going forever – we all need fuel and kindness – eat well, try to get enough sleep and make time out just for you. Even five minutes with a cuppa can make a difference.

Here are a few ideas that might work for you:

  • Do something active
  • Connect with someone else
  • Try a new skill or let yourself take some “me” time – remember what you used to enjoy doing… fly a kite, read a book, sing a song, paddle in the sea
  • Give time to others – helping someone out can really boost your own self-esteem
  • Focus on the moment and enjoy it
  • Stop worrying about things you cannot change
  • GET HELP – your friends, family, GP, Samaritans…

And me… what do I do? I need to get outside, whatever the weather… having a lively dog who needs plenty of exercise gives me the excuse to do so. I crave the forest or the sea when I get low and either will lift my spirits.