How to manage stress

It can be so easy to reach the end of a day and only then begin to notice that we might be feeling a bit stiff around our shoulders, have a bit of a headache, feel overwhelmed, be hungry or thirsty, or even desperately needing to go to the loo.

All of our feelings provide us with really important information about our needs, and yet we can become so preoccupied that we forget to notice them as they come and go. Over time, these unmet needs can build up and gather together to cause stress in our bodies and minds.

Learning to be aware of our own needs and feelings, and taking responsibility for them is good for us. We might believe that taking time for ourselves during the day is selfish, a luxury, or somehow not possible given the nature of our daily lives.

2020 has brought many additional stressors to our lives and continues to challenge us to find ways to manage these healthily. Our emotional health is made up of our ability to look after ourselves, to manage ourselves during times of challenge, and to sustain healthy relationships with those around us.

In order to work out ways to self-regulate, to settle ourselves when we feel upset, overwhelmed, stressed out, or defeated, we need first to allow ourselves moments where we check-in with how we are feeling.

How do we do that during a busy day?

Checking in with our bodies. How does my body feel right now? Explore any sensations you notice in your body – and take a moment to reflect on what those sensations might be telling you. What does my body need right now – how can I respond to these needs in the few moments I now have?

Check-in with our mind. How does my mind feel right now? Explore any sensations or recurring thoughts you notice appearing in your mind. Perhaps our mind feels cluttered and noisy – is there anything I could try which might help to settle this?

Collect some thoughts about what might help you during busy days, for example:

  • Going for a brisk walk outside – even for 5 minutes

  • Taking a few moments to stretch and check in with how you are feeling

  • Making a decision to go to bed early at the end of this day

  • Listen to some of your favourite music

  • Planning a catch up with a close friend or family member at the end of the day

  • Having a cup of tea and a catch up with a colleague

  • Stopping for a quiet cup of tea and reminding yourself that you are doing this for you – (no list-making or catching up with emails whilst you drink it)

Feeling stress is something which happens to us all and indeed there are times when a little stress can be a helpful, motivating thing. However if it builds up in our bodies it can have a very powerful effect on our health and wellbeing.

Taking some time to work out how we can notice it in ourselves and in those around us can help us to learn new ways to support ourselves and those we live and work alongside.

Mary Taylor, Head of Programmes