Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Stress Management Tips

Stress can affect how you feel, think and behave as well as how your body works, because your mind and body constantly interact with each other.

Everyone needs a certain amount of stress or pressure to live well. It's what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you throughout the day. However, stress becomes problematic when there's too much or too little.

The word "stress" is an unusual one as it is tends to be used to describe negative, difficult emotions or even mental ill-health. There are three main groups of causes of emotional difficulties - biological factors, social factors and life events.

So as stress is affected by many different elements managing stress requires you would need to manage as best you can each of those elements. Here are 10 tips for helping to manage stress.

Reducing your caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Caffeine and nicotines are both stimulants and will increase your stress levels rather than reducing them. Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities and ultimately will not be a great stress reliever.

Reducing the intake of these will help you in managing your stress - but having some in moderation can also produce a calming affect. Combining this reduction with a reduction in refined sugars can help reduce energy crashes within the body requiring additional stimulants.

Generally a well balanced, moderated and healthier diet will help.

Take part in physical activities

Stress increases the levels of hormones within the body including adrenaline and cortisol - the fight or flight hormones. These hormones are there to protect us from bodily harm - however we are no longer in danger from other predators. So physical exercise can help manage these hormones which are created in stress situations allowing the body to restore to a calmer and more relax state.

These physical activities don't have to be 10k runs or 2 hours in a gym, simply talking a walk in your lunch break, walking up the stairs instead of the lift, trying something new with mates. Getting regular activities and regular sleep will massively help.

Getting more sleep

Lack of sleep can cause stress - stress causes a lack of sleep...vicious circle. Trying to get your bedroom as a tranquil space to sleep with no reminders of the things that are causing you stress. Try to avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol during the evening if you know this leads to a disturbed sleep. Try turning off from mentally demanding works hours before bed - maybe take a bath or reading a calm book to tire your eyes. Having a routine and going to bed and sleep at the same time will set your body and mind for a predictable routine.

Trying to turn the brain off from the worries can be difficult - writing things down or using talk down meditation can help.

Relaxation techniques

Similar to the talk down meditation you could try self hypnosis which are easy and can be done anywhere. One very simple technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as "calm" "love" and "peace" work well, or you could think of a self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase; if you find your mind has wandered or you become aware of intrusive thoughts entering your mind, simply disregard them and return your focus to the chosen word or phrase. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don't worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice.

Talk to someone

Just simply talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful. Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it.

Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

Recording your thoughts

Writing down for a few weeks how you are feeling and be an effective management tool - highlighting situations, feelings, people and circumstances that can cause you stress.

Note down the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

Taking control

Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control thereby lowering your level of stress.

One problem-solving technique involves writing down the problem and coming up with as many possible solutions as you can. Decide on the good and bad points of each one and select the best solution. Write down each step that you need to take as part of the solution: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place.

Manage Your Time

At times, we all feel overburdened by our 'To Do' list and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once and start to prioritise and diarise your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority. Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. Record which tasks need to be done immediately, in the next week, in the next month, or when time allows.

By editing what might have started out as an overwhelming and unmanageable task list, you can break it down into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks spread out over a longer time frame, with some tasks removed from the list entirely through delegation.

Remember as well to create buffer times to deal with unexpected and emergency tasks, and to include time for your own relaxation and well-being.

Learn to Say ‘No’

A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet in this situation, many people will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence.

To learn to say “No”, you need to understand why you find it difficult.  Many people find it hard to say “No” because they want to help and are trying to be nice and to be liked.  For others, it is a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities.  Remember that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created.

You might feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No”, at least at first.  Instead think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently.  Practice saying phrases such as:

“I am sorry but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”                           “Now is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something.  Why don’t you ask me again at….?” “I’d love to do this, but …”

Rest If You Are Ill

If you are feeling unwell, do not feel that you have to carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable the body to recover faster.

Round Table could be the answer

The guys above in the picture are all from Barry Round Table, each of them have very normal day to day lives and jobs. Coming together every couple of weeks in the name of Round Table allows them to put into practice all the above tips (well some...)

The guys take part in regular physical activities, which can be sometimes exhausting and helping better sleep. The nights out in themselves are relaxing as they give the guys time out from their work and home life for a few hours allowing them to talk with other guys about anything and everything including banter.

The guys develop lasting friendships which grow outside of Table, breaking isolation and loneliness. These friendships allow the guys to check-in with each others seeing if the everything and everyone is 'ok'.

As many of the guys have been through similar experiences they help each other to understand they aren't alone with support for solving any problems.

Even though Round Table brings sometimes added responsibilities with community events and support we learn to manage our time and resources better in the knowledge that we have support if we ask. Learning to say no or help comes quickly in Table as we know we can truly rely on support from others.

Being with other men is a real boost for physical and emotional well being is tremendous - to find out more about Round Table or your nearest club visit

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