Don’t panic! Absolutely’s guide to what to do when you’re seriously stressed
Words Joy Montgomery
We all have moments when everything seems to get on top of us. Work, relationships, health and family; problems can easily build up and become seemingly unmanagable. The question is: what do you do when you’re seriously stressed? We’ve rounded up the five best ways to deal with that rising panic.
Meditation is a bit like marmite: you love it or hate it. Many people still associate it with fluffy new age spirituality, however it’s proven that over time meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and insomnia. Practiced for thousands of years, meditation helps focus your attention and calm the storm of worries that can tangle your mind.
Thankfully, you can meditate anywhere. If you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed, find a quiet space and take 5 or 10 minutes to breathe. Calm breathing leads to a calmer mind. There are plenty of meditation apps which offer guided meditations – ideal if these techniques are alien to you. Headspace is a great app as they have a variety of meditations for different situations: from commuting to your morning run. Also, the narrator is approachable and distinctly cringe-free!
GET SOME FRESH AIR
If you’ve had a particularly stressful meeting or argument with a partner, taking a moment outside will help clear your head. Take a walk around your local park, or simply step outside the front door. Taking a deep breath will increase the amount of oxygen transported to your body’s cells making you feel more calm. Additionally, getting a bit of sunlight is proven to help the brain produce the mood-lifting chemical serotonin. This is why we get ‘SAD’ in the winter. In addition, research shows that spending time outside increases energy in 90% of people.
Being present is a key technique in the practice of mindfulness. The idea is to turn your attention from the busyness of your mind back to the physicality of your body and the space around you. This is ideal for counteracting that ‘overactive brain’ feeling, as you’re not dwelling on the future or the past, which often leads to anxious thoughts.
A simple way to be more present is to focus less on what is going on in your mind and more on what’s going on around you. Notice the sounds and smells, the weight of your body on the chair or the feel of the objects around you. Take time to savour day-to-day activities such as making a cup of tea or walking to the bus.
LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC
We all know that listening to different types of music can have different effects on your mood. The same rule applies when you feel seriously stressed. Listening to music has a relaxing effect on or mind and bodies, absorbing our attention and helping to slow down thoughts. Music taste varies from person to person, and you’ll know which genres have a positive effect on your mood. However, as a general rule, more calming music, especially classical, is a great place to start.
MAKE A PLAN
Finally, if the extreme stress you’re experiencing is caused by solvable rather than floating worries, making a plan can be a helpful thing to do. By writing down everything you need to do and ranking in priority order you can help structure your thoughts. Try tackling one problem at a time and breaking it down into manageable pieces. Then work out what actions you need to take to solve the problem. Furthermore, by simply putting your worries onto paper you will instantly take away their power. Things often seem a lot smaller on a page than they do in your head!