We all feel stressed from time to time. Whether it's the kids getting under our feet, money worries or just feeling like there's not enough hours in the day, stress can quickly get on top of us and lead to more serious health problems.
In recent years stress has been linked to asthma attacks and most recently, diabetes in men. All of these conditions are serious and so it pays to nip that stressed feeling in the bud before it leads to bigger problems.
With help from experts, Charles Linden - founder of The Linden Method for anxiety, panic attacks and OCD and Neil Shah - director of The Stress Management Society, we've put together a 10-point stress-busting guide to keep you feeling happy and healthy.
1. Eat well
When we're busy and stressed, our diet is often the first thing to suffer.
It's tempting to just fill up on snacks and junk food to save time but this will just make you feel worse in the long run.
By eating a healthy, balanced diet,
your body will get everything it needs to help you cope with stressful
situations and you should find it easier to get a good night's sleep
too. Learn about the best foods to help you relax and de-stress.
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Not only are we
what we eat, but we're also what we think, and these two things aren't
as disconnected as you might imagine! Diet can have a dramatic effect on
mood and even severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia,
are being successfully treated with diet modification.
Balancing proteins, carbohydrates and fats in a diet regime which suits
your metabolism, build and appetite is vital in creating balance both
physically and psychologically. Blood sugar balnace plays a vital role
in mood and mental health, so it is vital to maintain a healthy level
both day and night to ensure optimum energy levels and a good night's
2. Get physical
is a great way to relieve stress. When you're wound up, your body
releases adrenaline which can leave you feeling really wired - not
helping at all. The best way to counteract this feeling is by working up
a bit of a sweat. When you exercise,
your body releases endorphins in your brain, which make you feel happy -
and it will help to burn off some of that extra adrenaline too. Try these exercises to de-stress your body
We know that finding time to exercise can be hard, and often a busy
lifestyle is what's making you stressed in the first place but just
little things will help. Could you take the kids out for a brisk walk in
the pushchair? They'll enjoy going fast and you'll get to burn off
some of that extra energy.
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Exercise is
vital to stress reduction and the best mental health, however it is
vital that stress levels are kept low in the evening to ensure a restful
night's sleep. Try to keep exercise at a level which leaves you feeling
relaxed and calm, anything too vigorous can increase stress levels
Most of us are feeling the credit crunch at the moment and in a study done by the Stress Management Society,
money worries came out on top for things stressing out mums around the
So what can you do about it? Well, the best thing you can do is to make
sure that you know what's going on with your finances at all times. It
might sound boring but by drawing up a monthly budget you'll avoid those
nasty surprises that'll send your stress levels through the roof. A
good budget planner can be found at moneysavingexpert.com.
A lot of people still don't trust internet banking but if you haven't
already, it could be worth signing up. Just being able to pop in and out
of your statement can really help you keep track of what's going on and
stop you from getting a nasty shock when you receive that statement at
the end of the month.
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Finances are one
of biggest triggers of stress. Money management isn't so difficult as
long as you keep detailed accounts of your income and expenditure. It's
so simple to ignore bank statements and spend 'til it's gone, but it
isn't sensible if you're trying to manage you stress levels.
Take just one hour each week to sit down with your bank statements and
monitor your funds. Structure and planning are all that are required to
minimise money related stress.
4. Ask for help
Whether it's at work or at home, sometimes we just have to admit that we
can't do everything and ask for help.
It won't make you any less of a valued employee to be realistic about
what you can and can't do in a time frame, just like it won't make you
any less of a mother to ask someone to watch the kids for an hour or get
your partner to help you do the cleaning.
Pushing yourself to the point where you're really stressed out will just
make you less effective at the things you're doing.
Stress and anxiety expert, Charles Linden says: 'Accepting help
is a matter of pride but more importantly, asking for help, which most
of us find difficult, is vital when stress levels rise.
If you don't ask, you won't get. Stress sufferers aren't weak, they keep
going to breaking point, weak people fall at the first hurdle,
recognise their limits and recover. Only strong people develop high
stress levels because they soldier on and rarely ask for help. It's
vital that you too recognise your weaknesses and ask for assistance
where you need it.'
5. Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine
If you're a smoker, the time you're most likely to want a cigarette
is when you're feeling stressed but it's the worst thing you can do.
The same goes for having an alcoholic drink, or even a tea or coffee!
All of these three things are stimulants and so when you're trying to
calm down, they will have the opposite effect and make you even more
Neil Shah, Director of The Stress Management Society says: 'If you're stressed, steer clear of stimulants such as tea and coffee and keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking water instead.'
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Binge smoking
and drinking can cause huge fluctuations in body chemistry and blood
sugar levels which can have a big effect on stress levels, both in the
short and long term. Balance is the key to good health and being a
sensible drinker and smoker will really pay off in later life.'
6. Sleep well
We know this is easier said than done but getting a good night's sleep
is one of the best things you can to do help you manage your stress
levels. Sleep is essential for your body to function properly and if
you're not getting enough, it's not surprising you're finding it hard to
If you've got young children keeping you awake at night,
try and grab a power nap whenever you can throughout the day. It might
not be quite as beneficial as having a long uninterrupted sleep at
night, but it will definitely help.
If you're stressed at work set aside a week to get some proper rest. Go
to bed early every night without fail. You'll be surprised how much
better you feel at the end of it. If you've always had trouble sleeping
solidly throughout the night, read our information on semisomnia and how to treat it.
Neil Shah, Director of The Sleep Management Society says:
'If your children are older establish some ground rules about waking up
the rest of the house, eg. that if they wake early they shouldn't
disturb Mummy, but stay in their rooms and read a book until at least
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Mediterranean
folk have got it right; a mid-afternoon nap really is the way to go but
remember, at night, it's vital to make sure you aren't hungry, too warm
or too cold in bed. The main cause of insomnia is hunger and fluctuating blood sugar levels which can cause palpitations, anxiety, feeling unsettled, bad dreams and even night-time panic attacks. Don't eat your main meal too close to bed time but be sure to have a small snack before you go to bed.
7.Talk to people
It's important to let people know when you're not coping and you're
bound to be surprised at how willing people are to help. If you're
struggling with your family life, talk to other mums - it might come as a
surprise to know that most parents have felt like this at some point,
despite how they might appear on the outside.
If you're stressed about problems at work, talk to your boss about your
concerns - or if that's a no-go area, your HR department. They can offer
you support and advice.
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'A problem shared
is a problem halved. Talking about your problems is not only
therapeutic, but can also prove to have practical benefits depending on
who you choose as your confident. Try to talk to those people who can
help you with a particular problem. Too many people are secretive and
guarded when it comes to financial or emotional matters. Open up to
someone you trust and see how your world opens up. Secrets are for the
8. Try relaxation techniques
When you've tried everything and you just can't relax, the very fact
that you can't calm down will stress you out. Sometimes we need a bit of
help and relaxation techniques are a good solution.
You might have never considered yoga
or even meditation but these methods are hugely popular and do seem to
If you fancy easing yourself into it, then there are plenty of
relaxation CDs out there. It might be an idea to give one of those a try
before you sign up for a month of intensive yoga, it might not tone
your body at the same time but it could certainly help to reduce your
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Visualisation,
meditation, relaxation - call it what you will but guided relaxation
exercises can be amazingly powerful. But they do take practice to
master. Yoga is also a very useful relaxation tool but you've got to be
reasonably fit to become good at it.
Whatever technique you decide to try, remember that you must feel
comfortably warm, be in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and
be focussed on the exercise throughout, otherwise you'll waste the
Another way to reduce your stress levels is by taking your mind off the
thing that is causing you concern. Puzzles and games like Sudoku or
crosswords are ideal as they require your full concentration.
If you can really lose yourself in a book or a TV show, that can help
too but it's often still really easy for the mind to wander back to the
thing that's stressing you out. With a puzzle, it will only take 5
minutes out of a busy day but the refocusing your mind will really help
you to be able to start afresh when you do return to what you need to
Neil Shah, director of the Stress Management Society says:
'Opting for a tea or coffee may give mothers a quick spurt of energy,
but a more rewarding type of break is when you can distract the mind as
it enables you to relax, recharge and then refocus onto other tasks.
After a short break doing some exercise, reading a book or playing a
game, mothers will feel revitalised and ready for the next challenge in
their day. Our research showed that just 5 minutes a day can be enough
to dramatically lower stress levels whilst improving productivity
throughout the rest of the day.'
10. Know your limits
None of us are superhuman and no matter how much you hate to admit it,
we all have limits which should be acknowledged. It's important for your
future health that you start to realise when you're pushing yourself
too far. Have the ability to step back when you feel things are getting
out of control and say 'that's enough'.
We know all this is sometimes easier said than done but by using all the
tips we've suggested and recognising situations and feelings in
yourself that mean your stress levels are on the rise, you should really
be able to help yourself.
Charles Linden, stress and anxiety expert says: 'Everyone has
their limits with regard to everything they do in life. Learn yours and
stick to them. Exceeding your physical and mental limits will,
eventually, only result in something bad.
Stress is the result of pushing your anxiety levels to the extreme.
Learn to pull back early on, recognise your limits and modify your
behaviour; it will pay off later on and ensure your ongoing health.'
Where to next?- Anxiety disorders: Facts and informations
- Insomnia: Facts and information
- Chat about what things stress you out