The last few years have piled the stress on nearly everyone. First there was the pandemic, and now cost of living crisis, and that does not even take into account a number of challenging years before that. Then there are the other stresses that we encounter in daily life – such as challenging relationships, family or financial worries, caring responsibilities, ill health, a heavy workload or a difficult boss. It is not always possible to eliminate the causes of our stress, so how then do we manage to live with it without letting it weigh us down to the point of being unable to function?
Try the stress bucket exercise
If we think of ourselves as a bucket, and the water pouring into the bucket as our stress, we can see how quickly the bucket can overflow if there are endless stresses. It is important therefore to let some of the water out with healthy coping strategies, while not adding to the water levels with unhealthy coping strategies (such as keeping everything bottled up, or turning to alcohol). Download our stress bucket activity sheet here. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the tasks of daily life, and self-care activities often fall to the bottom of the list. However, if we can set a little time aside every day for some self-care, it will give us more resources for managing the to-do list. Whether it’s doing some exercise, talking to a friend or doing a short meditation, finding a little bit of time each day will help let some of the water out of the bucket, so that it does not overflow.
Take control of what you can
When it comes to worries, we can often focus on things that we have little influence over, which only serves to make anxiety and stress worse. It can be worth writing down what the causes of your stress are, and one by one, look at what is in your control for each of those stresses, and writing down what action you can take. It is not always easy to do this when you are feeling overwhelmed, so perhaps enlist a friend to help, offering to help with theirs in return. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself “can I do anything about this right now?” if the answer is no, then it is important to find something else to do to take your mind off your stress for a while.
Get it off your chest and connect with others
Nothing feeds stress and anxiety more than bottling it up and feeling on your own with it all. Talking to someone will not get rid of the sources of your stress, but it might give you a bit of perspective and hopefully if you feel less alone, you will also feel more able to face your challenges. At Manchester Mind, a lot of our services are about getting people together so that they can share and support each other. From our resilience courses, to our food for all sessions, and peer support groups, participants repeatedly tell us how good it feels to feel connected to others, and that they feel less isolated and more able to cope.
Prioritise good sleep
Worries and stresses can keep us awake at night, but poor sleep leads to low mood and difficulty focusing and thinking. Do what you can to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep. Give yourself a good sleep window, avoid alcohol and electronic devices before bed and get some natural light early in the day to reset the body’s natural rhythms. Find out more about how to improve your sleep.
Constant news updates and doom scrolling does nothing for our mood, and zaps our energy for problem-solving. Recognise that social media and news updates can be addictive and set yourself limits. If you cannot do it on your own, see if your phone has a setting that limits your time on certain apps. It is also worth turning off notifications for emails and social media. It can feel nice at first to get the alerts, but they can add to our stress leaving us feeling ‘on’ all the time and under pressure.
Tap into your own resilience
Can you remember a time when you faced a challenge in the past? How did you cope? What helped you? What did you learn from it? What did you do then, that can help you now?
Most of us have already been through hard times, coped and found our way through. Looking back at how we managed can help us find our way through current challenges, and reassure ourselves that we can get through it this time, because we have got through difficult times before.
Our website contains lots more information about stress and burnout. Access further stress management tips and advice here