We all periodically feel stress in some form—these days more than ever as we navigate the impacts of a global pandemic amid all of life’s other stressors. Whether it’s from the jolt of waking up panicked after having slept through your alarm, from mounting debt or pressing deadlines, or even from facing the onslaught of long periods of grief brought on by change such as divorce or the death of a loved one, stress can have negative impacts on your well-being.
While these situations are jarring and emotionally taxing, sustained long-term stress takes a serious toll on our physical health, too. We might suffer from insomnia, feel low on energy, grind our teeth, have headaches, experience gastric issues or even become more susceptible to infections and illness. So when stress increases, it’s important to manage the feelings associated with it.
It is widely cited that the five most stressful life events are divorce; moving; suffering a major illness or injury; job loss; and the death of a loved one. Most people are likely to experience some, if not all, of these in their lifetime.
If you’re going through any of these life events, take heart. These tips will help you navigate the challenge you’re facing and help you get to the other side .
Consult the experts
Professional help is available if you feel overwhelmed. They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, so don’t be ashamed to seek help from professionals who are better equipped with the skills to help you manage grief, fear, shame, or disappointment, among others. From a psychiatrist to a church counsellor, all have undergone significant training to help those in need of a caring ear. If you’re uncertain of how to find a professional best suited to meet your needs, contacting your local doctor is a good starting point . They have a list of specialists to whom they can refer you.
Enlist a professional coach
A credentialed coach can help you figure out your next steps and help you create a plan to better manage the stress you’re experiencing. International Coaching Federation (ICF) credentialed coach Daisy Ogutu says a specialist coach is essentially your partner through tough transitions, whether that’s challenging yourself in new ways, moving to a new place, embarking on a different career path or even figuring out your life through a major change like divorce.
Dorothy Matheka, for example, learned through her coaching experience, that the unknown baggage she’d been carrying was affecting her family life. Feeling stuck in her personal life and career, Ogutu helped her unpack who she is and what she is passionate about in order to become “lighter and happier” and regain quality time with her family. In short, Matheka says coaching helps you learn how to be a better version of yourself.
Practice a healthy lifestyle
Getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep and spending time in nature are all excellent tools for managing stress and, as an added bonus, help you feel great all round ‒ which, in turn, further aids in curbing your stress levels.
You don’t have to completely overhaul your life to achieve balance. A short walk out in nature doubles up as a feel-good activity. Include an array of fruit and vegetables into your diet, go to bed an hour earlier at night, read a book instead of your mobile phone before bed – and you’ll begin reaping the rewards.
Try something new
Many experts agree that taking up a hobby reduces stress because it gives you something to focus your energy on in a positive way. It also promotes a sense of achievement, not to mention doing something you enjoy!
Whether it’s something just for you to do or starting a new activity that you take on jointly with your friends or family, carving time out of your schedule, however busy it may be, is valuable for your mental health.
So, learn that instrument or foreign language you’ve been considering or take up gardening. Start jogging, or even get working on a 1000-piece puzzle. It really is up to you to decide what you’d like to do though the general rule of thumb is simple: do what you take pleasure in.
Whatever stage of your life you’re in, despite all the things you might be going through, it’s important to have balance. Self-care is a major motto of the moment, but it really is important. With more people working remotely, this is especially important as the home is no longer a refuge from work. It’s now easier to fall into the trap of starting work a little earlier and finishing a little later than usual, so guard your time and create boundaries.
Prioritise doing things that help you relax in your free time, whether that’s reading a book, cooking a meal, going for a walk, sipping a cup of tea for even five minutes, catching up on that favourite guilty-pleasure series, or indulging in a full-on self-care Sunday spa ritual.
We may never be able to eliminate pressures from our lives, but we can learn to manage them. Following these five steps is a great way to start.