Last week, one of the country’s leading doctors called for the country to switch to a four-day working week to help combat high levels of work-related stress, let people spend more time with their families or exercising, and reduce unemployment. “We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families, and maybe reduce high blood pressure because people might start exercising on that extra day,” he said.
A four-day week mightn’t be possible for most of us, but he was right about exercising – it’s one of the key ways to reduce stress. It’s not a one-size only approach. Some are motivated by the sociability and weekly regime of a class, others prefer to run on their own, or to go for a long bike ride out in the open. Whichever form it takes, the benefits will be wide-ranging.
Hand in hand with exercise comes a healthy diet. Eliminating, or drastically reducing stimulants such as coffee, tea, cigarettes, and alcohol can really help. Having too much of any of these can end up being chemical stressors, which only heighten our stress response. Drinking one to two litres of water a day as well, keeps you well hydrated, less tired and more able to focus.
There are also practical exercises you can do, such as a mind map. A mind map is where you write a central word on piece of paper, in this case “STRESS”. We then start writing words or things that relate to what’s causing our stress. Eventually, the root cause begins to take shape. Once we know the root cause of our stress, we can begin to tackle it.
Writing down our thoughts can also be helpful, particularly when going to bed. Keeping a journal or notebook next to our bed and writing down thoughts and feelings actually helps to empty our minds ready for a restful night’s sleep.
Meditation might not be your thing – although it comes in many guises, as is definitely worth investigating – but simply listening to relaxing music before going to bed can help you to wind down. It’s also a good idea to put a reminder on your phone to breathe deeply three or four times a day.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore stress. Speaking to a trusted friend, enlisting the help of a Life Coach or seeing your GP can all set you on the road to recovery. A Life Coach can be particularly helpful if you’re struggling to identify the causes of your stress.
Remember: “Stress is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens, and RESPONSE is something we can choose.” Maureen Killoran