In partnership with Guernsey Mind
No matter who you are, or how ‘together’ your life is, there are inevitably times when you feel stressed out. Whether it’s an overflowing inbox, financial worries, relationship issues or the ‘little things’ that actually feel quite big when they get under your skin, we all have times when we feel the stress of dealing with life’s challenges.
And feeling stressed has become such a common feature these days that it's easy to accept it as an inevitable part of everyday life. But it’s not!
It’s true that a certain level of stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which can sharpen your senses and make you feel more energised. These stress hormones can help you to spring into action. But, as with most things in life, it’s about moderation. If these feelings last for a long time, or your stress levels are too high, your physical and mental health may start to suffer.
So stress is something that needs to be recognised, and we need to take steps to keep our stress levels under control. Together with Guernsey Mind, we’ve got some ideas to help you build up resilience and manage your stress levels.
These suggestions won’t make your stress go away, but they might help you take back control.
You may not be able to change stressful situations overnight, but working out what triggers your stress might help you be more prepared to deal with it. Is it a regular occurrence that is stressing you, such as money worries when the monthly bills come in? Maybe it’s a one-off event, like moving house? Or an ongoing family or relationship situation? Even if you can’t change or avoid the issues, knowing what the triggers are could help you work out the best way to deal with them and figure out where to find support.
When you know what's causing you stress, it's a good opportunity to question whether there are some things on that list that you can ignore, or which you simply have to accept? The Stress Container animation from MHFA England is a great visual to help you address your vulnerability to stress. It highlights the fact that we all have different stress level thresholds. If your individual 'stress container' is overflowing you will feel the effects of that on your mental and physcial wellbeing. It's important to know your stress limits and take action before you get to the point of overflowing.
Learning to be kinder to yourself can help with how you feel and react in difficult situations. Mind suggests trying to find time to relax and taking breaks in your day for things you enjoy, if you can. This might not be easy when you are feeling stressed out, but stepping back from the situation that is causing you stress could help to give you a different perspective. And remember, you don't have to have all the answers, just take things one step at a time.
This may sound obvious, but when you’re feeling stressed it can be really easy to stop spending time doing things you enjoy and let your hobbies and interests slide. But spending time doing creative things or immersing yourself in your favourite pastime can really help you to cope if you are feeling stressed. It can give you the headspace you need to see problems from a fresh perspective. It can also be a good way to connect with others if stress is making you feel lonely or isolated.
There are many reasons to exercise, and stress relief is one of them. Exercise can help to reduce your stress by distracting you from the tense situation you are dealing with and helping to clear your mind by giving you something else to focus on in the short term. Studies show that exercise can also help improve your mental wellbeing in the longer term by lowering your body’s cortisol levels and increasing endorphins.
If you can combine exercise with spending time outside, you can reduce your stress levels even further. It’s a fact! Studies have measured people’s levels of cortisol, one of the physiological markers of stress, and found that exposure to green spaces significantly reduced their levels. So it really is worth making time to get outside and spend some time in nature, and we're incredibly lucky to be surrounded by some wonderful outdoor space here on our island home.
Sometimes stress comes from having too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. If your busy lifestyle is making you feel stressed, take a look at your schedule and slow things down where you can. Make a list of things you have to do and arrange them in order of importance. There will be some things that have to be done, but others that you can put on hold if you need to. For example, it’s ok to say no to social invitations for a while. Or be selective and only say yes to the ones that mean the most to you.
Jo Cottell, Chief Executive of Guernsey Mind, shared a reminder to look out when you find yourself using the words ‘must do’ and ‘should do’ as they can be signs you're feeling overwhelmed. Jo recommends you ask yourself 'Do I really have to do this?’ Ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t do it. Is it really the end of the world? Switch ‘I must do the ironing’ with ‘I’m going for a swim’ - the latter being much better for you and the ironing can maybe wait a bit!
Research shows that having support from people you trust can make it easier to manage stressful situations. That support can take many different forms, whether you talk to friends and family or look for peer support. If your stress is work related and you are worried that your employer will not be supportive, Mind has specific guidance on work and stress that might help. Specific support is also available for stress related to student life and exam stress.
Having affirmations to turn to when life stresses you out is a useful way to channel your energy and take back control of your emotions. You might not be able to change the stressful situation, but by choosing an affirmation that works for you, you can change how you feel about it in that moment.
If you’re feeling stressed it can be hard to switch off, but poor sleep makes stress even more difficult to manage. Tips to help you prepare for a good night’s sleep include going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding eating or drinking too much before bed, blocking out the light and keeping screens out of the bedroom.
Drinking has become such a socially acceptable part of our culture that it is often used as a way to unwind after a stressful day. So much so that it can be difficult to recognise when it goes from drinking for pleasure to using drink as a crutch. If you find that you are drinking more alcohol to cope with stress in your life, take steps to recognise if you're drinking too much and identify what you can do about it. The same goes for other common crutches we turn to in times of stress, such as relying too much on caffeine to get you through the day or comfort eating. They are short term fixes that can add to the problem in the longer term.
If you feel you need professional help to deal with feelings of stress, reach out to your GP, or get in touch with Guernsey Mind for details of support and services you can access locally if you have concerns about your mental health.
You might also want to take a look at Where to Find Mental Health Support in Guernsey.