Tuesday May 30, 2017
Stress is your body's way of responding to a demand or threat. However, a threat doesn't necessarily mean that you are in real danger. In fact, in today's fast-paced, modern world, you are more likely to feel stressed due to the daily demands placed on you - such as upcoming exams.
When we are stressed, we feel overwhelmed and wonder whether we can really cope with the pressure placed on us. But worry not - at London Doctors Clinic, our private doctors are here to help patients when they are struggling to cope with life's stresses.
Sometimes, all it takes is a few lifestyle modifications to help someone better cope with their stress (as we'll discuss in this article). Other times, further interventions may be necessary to manage your anxieties, such as psychological therapies and perhaps even medications. Find out more below...
Why Am I So Stressed?!
Some stress is good for us – it motivates and inspires us, and feeling a certain amount of pressure helps us to get tasks done! If you weren't at all stressed about those upcoming exams, would you still find the motivation to study as hard for them?
However, when the things that are demanded of us outweigh our ability to cope, stress begins to undermine our physical and mental health, and this is often when we begin to suffer the consequences.
Too much stress is associated with a variety of unpleasant issues, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, reduced immunity, and muscle aches and pains - and these are just the physical effects! Emotional effects include overthinking and insomnia, which can make us more prone to suffering from psychological illness, such as depression or anxiety.
Stress can make us more prone to psychological illness, such as depression and anxiety
Getting Rid Of Stress
So, it seems clear that too much stress is bad for us. But how do we get rid of stress?
Well, realistically, we can’t simply get rid of stress; but we can take steps to reduce the number of things to get stressed about! Although stress will always play some part in our lives, it’s how we manage our stress that counts.
So, bearing that in mind, here are some of the best tips for coping with stress:
1. Reduce Stressors
Easier said than done, right? A stressor is anything that makes you feel stressed (think traffic jams, or deadlines). The take home point here is this: until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating and maintaining some of your stress, your stress level will remain outside your control.
If you're worried that you haven't done enough work for your upcoming exams, perhaps you could create a timetable that covers all the topics you need to know. If you are a person who persistently feels stressed about running late for university or work, it could be worth setting your alarm for ten minutes earlier in the morning? If there is a person in your life who regularly makes you feel stressed, imagine how much better you could feel if you made the decision to halve the amount of time you spend in that person's company? If you are avoiding dealing with a debt, could you contact your creditor and suggest setting up a sustainable repayment plan? These are just examples, but they will hopefully set you thinking about the little steps you could take to reduce the number of issues to get stressed about!
The benefits of regular exercise are endless! Leaving aside the benefits to your physical health, exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and induce a feeling of wellbeing and calm (as well as helping you sleep). Exercising often helps to clear your mind of the day’s stresses, focuses you, and provides a little precious “me-time”. So good news all round for stress busting!
Even if you plan to spend every waking second in the library cramming for those upcoming finals, don't underestimate the value of a quick 20-minute run round the block for that quick endorphin-fix!
3. Catch Some Sleep
Getting adequate sleep is a major tactic to employ in your fight against stress. When we don’t sleep, we tend to feel more negative and less able to cope. We have heightened sensitivity to stress and low energy levels needed to deal with our stressors. It’s a toxic situation all round.
What is more, stress can be both the cause and the result of difficulty sleeping, so it’s easy to get locked into a vicious cycle. Practising good sleep hygiene (routines around bedtime) is essential for a restful night, and there are lots of good self-help books you can buy. Alternatively, advice on sleeping well can be sought from your GP, who will also be able to advise you on many of the other stress relieving tips we talk about here.
4. Get Social
Sharing how you feel with a trusted confidante may really help to combat stress. This person may be a friend, family member, or even a counsellor or other health professional. Knowing that what you are feeling is normal is reassuring, and accepting an offer of support can be invaluable in managing stress. Sometimes, a single rant will be enough to help, but during chronic stressful periods, it may be helpful to speak to someone specially trained on a regular basis.
Students, why not speak to your University's Psychological Services department or visit student support websites such as Student Minds? Our private GPs at LDC are also happy to talk through your stress with you during a consultation.
5. Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the newest craze in the self-care world, and there is good evidence to show that this practice helps reduce stress. Regular mindfulness practice helps to calm and focus your mind, and helps you to become less reactive to future stressors, meaning that you can learn to pause and use your “wise mind” to come up with a solution to a situation.
6. Think About Your Diet
Often, when we are stressed, our bodies (and minds) crave salty, sugary and fatty foods. And if we are short on time, it’s all too easy to grab something on the go. But these foods will just add to our stress, and put inches on our waistlines in the process (which may stress us out even more in the long run!). Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, good fats (such as nuts and olive oil), and plenty of water supports our bodies in times of stress. Avoid, where possible, “medicating” stress with caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
7. Get Creative
Why not think about starting a stress journal? It’s not as time consuming as it might sound, and it can really help you to recognise patterns to your stress, and learn more about how you can help yourself. Each time you feel stressed, track it in your journal. Write down:
- What caused your stress
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
- Did your efforts to make yourself feel better work? What could you try differently the next time?
Have you ever considered starting a stress journal?
If you have been inspired by some of the tips above, a great place to start is to pick just one or two and start incorporating them into your daily life. They are proven to work in the battle against stress, and you could find yourself feeling better and more in control in no time!
However, if you've tried a few of the above and you're still unable to control your stress levels, it might be time to speak to a medical professional about managing your stress. Our doctors are experienced in advising patients - including many students - who are struggling to cope with high stress levels. Book in for convenient, short-notice GP appointment at any of our central London clinics. As always, if you need to find a GP, LDC is here for you - with nine GP surgeries, we should never be too far away!
By Melissa Dillon