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  • Writer's pictureCristine Enriquez

Five ways to help relieve stress this National Stress Awareness Day

Today is Stress Awareness Day founded by Rethink Mental Illness. This national day will be highlighting the ways that stress can affect people and what we can do to manage stress before it becomes a problem.

“Millions around the UK experience stress and it is damaging to our health and wellbeing. For example, at some point in the last year, 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope (Mental Health Foundation).

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Stress is your body’s reaction to help you deal with pressure or threats. This is sometimes called a "fight or flight" response. Your stress hormone levels usually return to normal once the pressure or threat has passed.

A small amount of stress can be useful. It can motivate you to act and get tasks completed. It can also make you feel alive and excited. But too much stress can cause negative effects such as a change in your mood, your body and relationship issues.

To recognise this important national day FeelCare have put together five tips to help address stress in our daily life.

If you feel you are being affected by stress in a negative way you are not alone. Speak to your local GP or a healthcare professional. Everyone has mental health and it’s pivotal to our whole being. If you’re feeling it, speak about it. Addressing anything early enough means it’s far easy to make changes and see the results.

1. Notice the rhythm of your breath whenever possible

We typically take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths per day. By bringing our attention to this normal occurrence for a few minutes daily we immediately connect to living in the present moment. Living in the moment helps us to reduce the unnecessary pressure of perhaps past failures and unpredictable future events. When we live in the present moment we focus on that day only, helping us to accept ourselves the way we are. This kind of surrender when practiced regularly opens us up to new opportunities, genuine and grounded relationships, and inner peace.

2. Speak to the RIGHT person about how your feeling

Opening up about our feelings can feel daunting but it can also be a lifesaving/changing experience when we connect and feel safe with that person. When we speak to the right person we are more likely to open up. When we are not fully comfortable with the person we are confiding in we might react by hiding or avoiding some particular aspects of your experience or ‘people pleasing’, which of course, would keep us from getting the very help we are seeking. So how do we find the right person? For smaller concerns, consider speaking to a friend or a colleague you feel safe with. Someone that fills you with peace not extreme emotions. Extreme emotions can be a sign that person is triggering your nervous system.

If you feel it’s a good time to speak to a mental health professional, look for someone who specialises in what you are experiencing. However well-intended some therapist’s intentions are, anguish can be further aggravated if a general approach is taken to our needs. Look for someone who has worked with your specific needs, has lots of experience in that area and has relatable client reviews.

3. Acknowledge your body, check in on how it feels and what it needs

Learning to feel present in your body can be a helpful way to start to feel calmer. Being present in your body means noticing, rather than trying to control or judge, what is happening. To get in touch with the present moment, some people find it useful to pray, sit in nature, meditate, or do other calming activities. Others may find it useful to use your five senses to notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. It can be hard to learn a new skill when feeling stressed, so practice being present in your body at times when you don’t feel too stressed.

Not all stressors are within your control, but some are. Putting too much on your plate may increase your stress load and limit the amount of time you can spend on self-care. Being selective about what you take on and saying no to things that will unnecessarily add to your load — can reduce your stress levels, especially with people who add to your stress levels. This can be as simple as asking a friend or family member not to stop by unannounced or cancelling standing plans with a friend who tends to create drama.

5. Spend time in nature

Whether it be a walk in the park, a soak in an aromatherapy bath, planting some seeds in a kitchen planter, picking fresh herbs for dinner preparation or diving in the sea – mother nature desperately wants us to realign ourselves in her beauty.

Spending just 20 minutes connecting with nature can help lower stress hormone levels, according to a study in the April 4, 2019, Frontiers in Psychology.

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