Stress has a huge impact on our mental wellbeing and can quickly get out of hand when we don’t deal with it. According to a study by the Mental Health Foundation in 2018, 74% of people in the UK have felt so stressed that they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Every challenge in your day-to-day life can create stress in your brain and body, and these small stressors add up to create your overall level of stress. So if you are under pressure or dealing with issues frequently, you’re probably experiencing stress that’s difficult to manage. It might build up during the course of your day and really hit hard at night, it might gradually increase over a number of days or weeks and cause feelings of burnout.
Everyone deals with stress differently, but the foundations of stress management are the same. Have a look through the strategies below to help you wind down after a stressful day.
1. Write your to-do list for tomorrow
A simple one to start. If you’ve had a stressful day, I bet that you’re now thinking about all the things you’ve got to do tomorrow. This is where overwhelm can set in. Writing out all of the thoughts in your head does exactly what it says on the tin - it gets the thoughts out and onto paper where you can pick them up in the morning. You can stop worrying all night that you’ve forgotten something important, and actually relax and enjoy your free time.
2. Spare a few minutes to breathe
It doesn’t have to be a meditation, simple breathing techniques will do the job. Feel the breath and imagine your stress and tension being released with every exhale. There’s a reason that breathing is so central to practices like yoga, the breath is such an easy way to take back control. Pausing for a few minutes gives your thinking mind a chance to rest, and helps to break the cycle of stressed out thoughts.
3. Do something that makes you happy
I’ll keep this one broad because happiness is going to be different for everyone. Relaxation isn’t just about scented candles and deep breathing. Feeling happy results in lower cortisol (the stress hormone), so every time you give yourself the chance to feel happy, you will improve how your body manages stress too. Call your best friend, watch a funny TV show, or listen to your favourite playlist. It’s completely up to you.
4. Take a bath or a shower if you’re short on time
Bathing for relaxation has been a concept for thousands of years, and one we are all pretty familiar with. The heat of the water helps to release physical stress from the body, and the sensation of laying in water is such a foolproof way to find calm. If you don’t have time for a bath or don’t own a bath, I find that an evening shower can feel like washing off the day and starting afresh.
5. Show somebody some love
Your Mum, your partner, your dog. It doesn’t matter who. I mean even hug yourself if there’s nobody else around! We feel good when we are around people we love, it releases endorphins and we end up feeling happier without even trying. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon in Pennsylvania have found that being hugged by someone you trust is a proven way to reduce the effects of stress.
6. Get enough sleep
I’ve put this one last because, hopefully, all of the strategies above will have helped you to wind down and be ready for sleep. Eight hours sleep is recommended but it’s important to remember that the quality matters just as much as the quantity. Create a bedtime routine that works for you and stick to it - it will trigger your brain to relax and prepare for bed. Waking up after a good sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the challenges that the new day brings.
I hope these stress management techniques have resonated with you, and if not, there are plenty more out there on the big wide web! Sometimes you will just need to do a couple of these things in order to relax, at other times you might need to do them all. Develop an awareness around stress and learn what your mind and body need to return to balance.