As explained before, stress is a normal part of life: your body is preparing for a challenge by increasing heart rate and blood flow so that you are ready to perform. These physical reactions are a healthy reaction to your mental preparation for an exciting event: a job interview, performance test or presentation are all events that cause stress for a lot of people.
But what if these mental and physical stress reactions don’t fade over time? Or if there simply are too many things to be stressed about? Longer periods of stress can have negative consequences on both your physical and mental health.
How can you take care of yourself in times of stress?
· First, make sure you have a good daily structure and rhythm. Go to bed on time and wake up around the same time every morning. Getting enough sleep will help you handle your problems better.
· Take good care of yourself by eating healthy and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake. The use of alcohol might feel like a relief of stress at first, but in the long term will have a negative effect on stress. Same goes for caffeine: it might feel like your energy increases in short term, but it also has a negative effect on stress and sleep.
· Get moving! Exercise is a good way to release stress. Find a way of exercise that works for you, such as running, swimming or yoga. Try to make this activity just for you, so make sure you reserve enough time.
· Get a good overview of your situation by writing down what troubles you. What are in fact the problems that are causing stress? Which ones can you solve yourself and how? For what problems do you need help (practical help or support from friends and family)?
Sometimes problems aren’t easily solved. That’s why it’s important to manage your stress levels even if the stressors are still present in your life. The answer? Relaxation. By relaxing you are helping your body to temporarily stop its stress reaction. Relaxation helps your body to recover. It’s important to build in moments of relaxation on a daily basis, where you give yourself a break from your problems and daily tasks. One way of finding out what relaxes you is the following:
Keep track of your activities throughout the week and make a list: what activities have a positive or relaxing effect and what activities actually increase stress? And do you remember things you used to do for fun, that you don’t do anymore? Make a list of all the possible ways for you to relax and start implementing them into your schedule. Try to make sure there is a good balance between the stressful activities (work, daily tasks, dealing with problems) and relaxing activities.