Many of us lead incredibly stressful lives. Are you reading this now, whilst simultaneously thinking that you have a list of things you should have done today? That sums up my thoughts as I write this. It's the start of term and the amount of things I am expected to juggle is enough to make me curl up in the foetal position and start to cry! In fact, I already had a little cry this week because I was so overwhelmed by it all. Maybe I'm not the most qualified to offer advice on this topic, but I'll share my thoughts anyway, why not!
1. Let yourself slack off every so often and refuse to feel any guilt:
Allocate time to just relax, despite the amount of work you have to do. My favourite way to relax is to go to bed quite early and watch a few episodes of a comedy series, or something nostalgic to you. For me, I love Birds of a Feather, Father Ted, or Jonathan Creek. There's something about returning mentally to a less stressful era through TV programmes that lets me relax in a way that is not possible with current TV offerings. The 90s were not stress-free; I was a teenager and had plenty of worries, but nowhere near the responsibilities and workload that I do now. Re-visiting this era really calms me down for some reason!
I need to make more lists! It's just so stressful seeing everything I have to do!
2. Set realistic expectations of yourself:
It doesn't matter how much other people appear to expect of you, you must be realistic with yourself. Making lists helps some people and not others. Ticking items off a list can be very comforting; however seeing the list grow and grow before your eyes as you add all of the tasks you have to complete can be stressful before you even begin.
Give yourself one or two tasks to complete each day and any extra that you manage to fit in are a bonus. You really do have to be kind to yourself and realise that you are the one who is putting a lot of the pressure on yourself. You are not a robot and can only do so much.
3. Eat a mixture of 'comfort' and healthy foods:
A healthy breakfast can set you up well for the day and make you feel more able to cope with stress. It's so easy to skip meals when you're busy or stressed, but don't. Make yourself a food box/ bag or hamper to have at work or at home to dive into when you complete work, especially if you often miss meals or work long hours. Don't fall into the trap of letting your mind tell you that you need 'comfort' food! I don't know about you, but I do that sometimes, and it's a complete lie! You need nutritious food. But if you want to feel less stressed (and be realistic), throw in a chocolate bar (or whatever your naughty brain desires) amongst healthy snacks.
4. Have a good old moan:
I'm sure there's studies to prove that venting your frustrations can lower stress levels. Sometimes the best thing to do is just have a rant about things and off-load your worries. If you're someone that prefers not to vocalise your thoughts, keeping a diary can help. This post is actually proving quite therapeutic for me right now!
One thing to bear in mind is to to distinguish between moaning about workload or circumstances, and moaning (bitching) about other people because you're under stress. Taking things out on people is rarely going to make you feel better. If you have a conscience, it may make you feel worse. If a person is causing you stress and you really must moan about them, choose who you vent these feelings to with caution: slagging off a classmate or colleague to another can result in word getting back to them, leading to even more problems. I'm talking from observation, rather than experience here!
5. Use psychological gimmicks to help you get some good sleep:
Pampering, expensive bath treats, pillow sprays: I love them, but do they genuinely lead to a perfect night's sleep? I very much doubt it, especially when your brain is such a complex machine.
Despite this, these anti-stress products can relax you and make you feel ready to let go of your worries. If you don't invest in your physical and mental well-being, chances are no-one's going to do it for you.
I used the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray by This Works last night for the first time and I got to sleep quickly, without waking up for any length of time in the night. I did have some horrible nightmares though! That aside, the fact that I felt I'd used something that would relax me was obviously enough to make me drop off to sleep without spending ages lying there procrastinating (like I often do these days!).
So in summary, dealing with stress is really a case of 'what works for you'. The experts will always come back to diet, sleep and exercise, and it is clear that these are hugely important factors in your well-being, but sometimes I feel it's about balancing those with what gives your soul a bit of a boost (whether that be a cheeky scoop or two of Ben and Jerry's, or a good old 'eff and jeff' to someone you really trust!).