We all deal with stress in our day-to-day routine. But stress can easily become too hard to manage, harming our physical and mental health. April is Stress Awareness Month and in this blog, editor Helena suggests some ways to cope with stress and manage some of its side effects.
1) Change up your location
Get some fresh air
Something as simple as breathing in fresh air can help when stress gets out of control. When you feel under pressure, staying in the same environment for too long may make things worse. Before you know it, words seem to lose meaning and it’s hard to concentrate. Sometimes, it feels like your brain has suddenly stopped working and this feeling can cause you to panic. Changing your scenery can help to refresh your thoughts and calm you down. Remove yourself from the stressful environment for a few minutes to remind yourself there is a bigger picture.
2) Out of the brain and onto paper
Make a list
This is one of the things I do all the time to deal with stressful situations. Sometimes, my brain feels like a filing cabinet that’s overflowing, with information spilling out everywhere. It can help to get the information out of your head and onto some paper. You could use a diary, post-it notes, even your phone. Find something that works for you and allows you to free up some space in your head. When things are written down in front of you, they can often seem more manageable and less intimidating.
3) Get yourself moving
Exercise isn’t just for maintaining good physical health, it also helps your mental well-being. Even gentle exercise, like going for a walk, gives you time to focus on energising your body. Physical activity will also encourage your brain to release chemicals (called endorphins) that can lift your mood and help you handle stress. It can also make you feel more in control, because you’re doing something for yourself. This is vital when managing expectations that you (or others) have of yourself.
4) Food for the body and soul
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, enjoying fresh food and drinking plenty of water will improve your mood and energy levels. For most people, a healthy diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables, some starchy foods, such as potatoes, some meat or fish, some dairy products, and a little fat, salt and sugar. It’s normal to not always feel like eating well, and sometimes we eat our favourite foods to treat ourselves. This is also important for socialising and enjoying our day-to-day lives. But in general, a healthy, balanced diet can help give us the energy we need to handle stressful situations.
5) A problem shared...
Communicate with others
Sometimes, stress can make you feel like withdrawing from people. Of course, you may need this time to recover, physically and mentally, from a period of stress. But it’s important that you communicate with people around you, so your emotions don’t take over. Even if you don’t want to discuss the things making you stressed, talking generally can take your mind off things and help you relax. It’s often useful to remind yourself of what exists outside of the stressful situation you are currently experiencing.
6) Don't underestimate the power of sleep
Find a pattern that works for you
While we sleep, our brains release chemicals that stop our bodies making stress hormones. So, when we are having difficulty sleeping, our bodies never fully ‘calm down’. Allowing yourself time to relax before bed and creating a routine can help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Being more active during daytime, regulating the temperature in your bedroom or having a bedtime snack (avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar) may also help. You should do whatever creates a calm atmosphere that you feel comfortable in. If you continue to experience problems, talk to your GP.
Coping with the emotional effects of cancer and trying to absorb all the information doctors give you can be stressful. We have a number of booklets that can help with this, as well as lots of information on our website. This includes information for friends and family.
You can order the booklets by clicking the links above or by calling 0808 808 00 00. You can also share your experience and read about the experiences of others on our Online Community.
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Thank you for this excellent article about stress. I have had a good deal of stress and high anxiety lately. I do go outside everyday to go for a 30 minute walk and that helps greatly. The thing with NETS, the anxiety comes on fast and strong when something is not right in my world, never did that before. Anyway, thank you for this great article!
I have always liked to paint and sketch, but my diagnosis last October of thyroid cancer gave me the impetus to really get on with it and take the development of my skills more seriously. I have sketched and painted almost every day since then, and it has helped me to get through a period of isolation in hospital as well as some periods of anxiety. Even if you think you can’t draw, you can find all kinds of demos to follow online, and you can forget about everything else that is going on while you try. Happily, I am now in recovery, and I have even started a small art group in my village.
I have a brain tumour and if I canny understand what people are telling me or explaining to me I get so stressed I can’t think straight and some people don’t try to understand what I’m going through
I go to the gym three times a week, and just have one hour work out. I now find that I can do more in the hour than what I used to be able to when I first started. This is good for clearing the mind. I get a healthy diet because I cook from scratch, no take aways. When I first had my operation, when I was discharged I wrote my life story. When this was finished I started writing poetry, of which I now have a portfolio of 40. I am involved with many things with MCMILLAN, two head and neck support groups and Advanced motorists, and living with and beyond cancer group All these keep me so busy, that I haven't got time to dwell on things. I have made great friends with MCMILLAN people. Eric