We all have times in our lives when we experience stress. A small amount of stress is good for us as it helps us to perform. For example, the pressure of a tight deadline can give you the pressure you need to achieve the target. But some stress is extreme or prolonged, like a bereavement, long term illness, break down of a relationship, exams, unrealistic targets, this list goes on!
When we are in these situations our bodies adapt with an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are good because they give our bodies an extra boost to help face the situation. However, they drain the body of its energy that, in the longer term, it requires for cell renewal and normal function. After any stressful incident the body needs time to recover in order to restore its energy and renew itself.
If this doesn’t happen, the side effects of stress become more noticeable as the body struggles to restore itself.
Therefore, it is important to allow yourself some recovery time. Here are some suggestions that can help with that process:
Do what makes you feel good
Doing things you enjoy and that make you feel good can help improve your wellbeing. Often when we are feeling stressed we have a tendency to stop doing anything pleasurable, saving our energies for tackling the current situation. Write a list of what makes you feel happy and focus on doing some of those things. Keep hold of this as it can be useful to refer back to and you can also keep adding to it as you think of things.
Physical activity not only releases the endorphins that make us feel good it also helps to disperse the adrenalin and cortisol produced during stressful times. It can also free your mind to reflect on what has been causing the stress and help to gain some perspective on the situation.
Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh and colourful food is something that is often neglected during periods of stress. Some people find they eat more and are tempted to reach for sugary and fatty snacks as a source of comfort, while others struggle to eat at all. Either way the body begins to suffer from a lack of good nutrition. In your recovery period try to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet to help your body bounce back. It’s easy to become reliant on the quick fixes of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or sugar. As these are stimulants they tend to raise our adrenaline levels and add to our stress rather than relieving it! Reducing your consumption of these things will help to allow your body to regain its natural rhythm.
One of the most common side effects of stress is disturbed sleep. Once the stress has passed, you may still be suffering the effects of this as your body has formed bad habits. Try some simple relaxation exercises before bed; turn off all technology an hour before sleep and don’t go to bed until you feel tired. Other things that can help are exercise to tire the body, a warm drink to help with relaxation, a cool and calm sleeping environment. Counting the hours you have available to sleep is a common contributor to insomnia so try to take a relaxed attitude to sleep and not worry about how long you are sleeping for.
Take a step back from the situation
Give yourself some time to review the stress you have recently been experiencing. Writing down your experiences can help with this and it also helps to clear the mind. Acknowledge what you have just been through and try to take an objective look at the situation. Is there anything you can do to avoid the situation reoccurring or is there anything you need to alter? Sometimes you may find yourself needing to adapt to the stressor or having to accept the things you cannot change.
Talk to someone
Talking through how we feel can help us feel less isolated and also give some perspective on a situation and find solutions. Engaging with friends is a great way to feel more relaxed and laughter is a brilliant way to relieve stress and improve our sense of wellbeing.
We found this analogy that someone shared on Facebook:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she enquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8oz to 20oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralysed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralysed – incapable of doing anything.”
Remember to put the glass down!
If you require further support or specialist help contact our information line:
We have just launched a series of wellbeing webinars, primarily aimed at pre-registration trainees. The information is based on our recent wellbeing workshops and you can access them here.