Stress is universal and it is definitely a creeper. Sometimes we don’t even recognise just how stressed we are and more importantly we don’t always realise the impact that stress is having on us. And of course, our reactions to stress are different according to mentalhealth.org “We all deal with stress differently. Our ability to cope can depend on our genetics, early life events, personality and social and economic circumstances.”
We all know that a little bit of stress is good for us…it keeps us on our toes and can make us perform better in certain situations but it’s prolonged stress that is problematic. I don’t think that it’s too presumptuous for me to say that after the last few years, the majority of us have developed an even deeper relationship with stress and its best friend anxiety.
Traditionally stress is a short term feeling while anxiety is a long term but the thing is that they have similar symptoms and it’s often difficult to know when we’ve shifted from one to the other.
Some physical symptoms could be: headache, nausea, indigestion, racing heart, loss of appetite, comfort eating, low energy, aches and pains, body tension, jaw clenching
Some emotional symptoms could be: mood swings, irritability, poor sleep, poor concentration, trouble relaxing (mentalhealth.org.uk)
The other challenge is that long-term stress/anxiety can be difficult to manage – we are used to trying to unwind by bingeing on Netflix, having a drink or reading a book and while these short-term fixes are pleasurable and might take our mind off of things, they’re not really dealing with the problem in a sustainable way.
As well as managing our own daily lives… we are faced with so many stress and anxiety-inducing realities in our world at the moment that it’s really difficult for us to know how to manage our triggers. Yes, we’ve been living with the impact of COVID-19, we’ve been living with the awakening that’s caused by social injustices especially those last year in the states, and now we’ve got the added worry of climate change – which has developed a new urgency.
As we are increasingly bombarded with scary headlines about all of these realities from every angle – the news, social media, documentary’s etc… it’s not surprising that we are feeling stressed out with covid anxiety and now climate change anxiety…so how do we go about managing our feelings? Sometimes it’s the little things that we do that make a difference and hopefully, the following tips will be helpful:
Check your perspective
When it comes to climate change anxiety, and social issues It feels important to try and get some perspective: why not jot down a few things that you actually CAN do to contribute to positive change eg. Be more proactive about recycling stuff that you no longer use like clothes, furniture etc…if you’re a driver, try leaving your car at home where possible, join a local group focused on local activities.
Make time for you
Make time for you and for the things that bring you pleasure and a sense of calm. It’s too easy to drop these things when life gets busy and stress builds. Consider exploring a mindfulness practice or meditation or journaling.
We’ve heard it all before but exercising really can help…whether you go to the gym, or cycle ….even a simple walk has benefits. “Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly.” www.nhs.uk
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise every day. Aside from helping you sleep, improving your energy levels and making you feel happier and better overall, exercise will also improve your health by lowering your chance of developing chronic problems like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Call a friend or someone you’ve not spoken to for a while and reconnect with them. Sometimes life can get busy and you feel like you don’t have time –but it can lead to increased happiness, better health and a longer life. We crave feeling supported, valued and connected – it is a key factor in our wellbeing.
Take regular digital detox days so that you reduce your exposure to potential triggers. You know what you need to switch off from, whether that’s from people or electronics. If you’re able to do this during the day, try and spend a day disconnected from your phones etc. Or spend the evening with everything switched off and have a little ‘digital detox’. If you’re feeling like you’re being overwhelmed by external noise, take some time to disconnect and focus on yourself for a time.
Constantly struggling with sleep can be more than frustrating, it can be incredibly detrimental to your health on all levels from cognitive functions, to mood, your physical health and so much more.
To help improve your sleep, you could try to create a bed time routine that includes time for a ‘brain dump’ of all the things that are weighing on you…. dump them in your journal along with your possible action steps.
According to the British Sleep Council’s ‘Great British Bedtime Report’ “A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours” and “a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours.” If you’re one of these people, consider talking to a professional to help support you get better sleep and you could also look into podcasts and aromatherapy aids to help you get a good nights rest. Also consider trying CBD to help with anxiety and sleep.
It’s also easy to forget that the quality of our sleep is affected by numerous factors like the suitability of the mattress that we sleep on and the pillows that we rest our heads on. So do a bed audit tonight: we are meant to turn/rotate our mattresses monthly so maybe it’s time to turn your mattress or consider a new one.