19 Jun 2023

Tips for managing and coping with stress


Although campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week highlight the impact stress can have on our daily lives and mental health, sometimes it can seem like there is nothing you can do about stress through the good and, more importantly, the bad times.

If you're living with high levels of stress, you're putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress can cause all sorts of issues for your emotional state, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life. It may seem like there's nothing you can do about stress. but you have a lot more control than you might think.

Stress management is not one-size-fits-all solution and that's why it's important to experiment and find out what works best for you. The following stress management tips have been chosen by expert doctors at Midland Health which may help you to keep control and live a balanced life.

Tip 1: Going for walks

Recommended by Dr Rupa Parmar - With Over 10 years of experience as a GP, Dr Parmar supports patients as a comprehensive practitioner with special interests in preventative and lifestyle medicine, gynaecology, contraception and mental health.

Walking can help relieve stress. Walking gives you time to think, as well as time to get away from stressors. Getting out of the stressful environment, breathing the air, and feeling your body move is natural stress-relief.

Walking and other exercise leads to the release of the body's natural happy hormones â€&rdquol endorphins. Walkers who walk at a brisk walking pace to raise their heart rate will notice this effect more than those who walk at a slower heart rate pace. But even at a slower pace, most people notice an improvement in mood.

Think about from head to toe how your body is working to carry you along. You may want to practice breathing techniques. You can also work on your walking form or simply feel the sun or rain on your skin. Studies found that walking in a natural environment had greater effects for stress relief than walking in an urban setting.

Tip 2: Watch your diet

Recommended by Raj Bassi - Raj is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who regularly treats for: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, OCD, PTSD, relationship issues, eating disorders, bereavement, lack of self esteem and anger management among other challenges.

Your diet affects every aspect of your health, including your mental health. Studies show that people who follow a diet high in ultra-processed foods and added sugar are more likely to experience higher perceived stress levels.

Being chronically stressed may lead you to overeat and reach for highly palatable foods, which may harm your overall health and mood.

Plus, not eating enough nutrient-dense whole foods may increase your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that are essential for regulating stress and mood, such as magnesium and B vitamins.

Minimising your intake of highly processed foods and beverages and eating more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, nuts, and seeds can help ensure that your body is properly nourished. In turn, this may improve your resilience to stress.

Tip 3: Limit your screen time

Recommended by Dr Sarah Wright - Dr Wright has over 15 years of experience working in both NHS and private General Practice and has special interests in women's health and dermatology as well holding Diploma for family planning and sexual health.

Whether you're scrolling social media or working on the computer, screens increase stress on your central nervous system and increase the stress hormone, cortisol.

By taking time away from screens, you can balance out these chemicals in your body. As a result, you might find yourself with a better, more stable mood, less anxiety and depression, and even improved empathy toward others.

Lack of quality sleep is also often linked to anxiety, stress and depression. The blue light from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to sleep. If you scroll social media, work on your laptop late at night, or even watch TV before bed, your body struggles to produce melatonin to help you fall and stay asleep.

Tip 4: Spend time with loved ones

Recommended by Dr Stephen Barrattshaw - Dr Stephen Barrattshaw is a consultant general adult psychiatrist on the specialist register of The GMC with sub specialist endorsement in rehabilitation psychiatry and regularly works with individuals with serious and enduring mental health problems.

Social support from friends and family may help you get through stressful times and cope with stress.

Spending time with friends and family in person can significantly reduce the occurrence of depression, anxiety and other mental illness. Being present with loved ones creates a strong emotional support to lift you up rise against challenges you may be facing.

Having a social support system is important for your overall mental health. If you're feeling alone and don't have friends or family to depend on, social support groups may help. Consider joining a club or volunteering for a cause that's important to you.

Tip 5: Know when to say no

Recommended by Dr Pav Hare - Dr Hare trained at the University of Leeds Medical School, graduating in 2013. During this time, she also obtained a BSc Honours degree in Physiological Sciences in 2011 from Newcastle University, where she gained a deeper understanding of the human body while engaging with internationally-renowned researchers.

Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.

Putting too much on your plate may increase your stress load and limit the amount of time you can spend on self-care. Taking control over your personal life may help reduce stress and protect your mental health.

One way to do this may be to say “no” more often. This is especially true if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, because juggling many responsibilities may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Being selective about what you take on and saying “no” to things that will unnecessarily add to your load can significantly reduce your stress levels.

Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, being chronically stressed takes a toll on your physical and mental health.

Fortunately, as well as the tips from our expert above, several evidence-based strategies can help you reduce stress and improve your overall psychological well-being.

If you're worried about impact of stress on your life and would like to speak to a professional for further help and advice, book a consultation with Midland Health today or contact 0121 769 0999, hello@midlandhealth.co.uk.