Sometimes stress builds up quickly. For example, the unexpected traffic jam.
Sometimes it is ongoing. For example, a difficult job.
Ongoing stress is thought to be bad for health, although this is difficult
to prove. For example, stress is possibly a risk factor for developing heart
problems in later life. Stress may also contribute to other physical
illnesses in ways little understood. For example, it is thought that
irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, migraine, tension headaches, and other
conditions are made worse by an increased level of stress.
Your work performance, and relationships, may also be affected by stress.
How can I avoid stress?
The following is a list of suggestions that may be useful to try to combat
stress, some more appropriate to some people than others:
You can try making a stress list. Try keeping a diary over a few weeks or
so, and list the times, places, and people that aggravate your stress
levels. A pattern may emerge. Is it always the traffic on the way to work
that sets things off to a bad start for the day? Perhaps it's the
supermarket check-out, next door's dog, a work colleague, or something
similar that may occur regularly and cause you stress.
Once you have identified any typical or regular causes of stress, two things
may then help:
Try practising these simple techniques when you are relaxed, and then use
them routinely when you come across any stressful situation.
Set specific times aside to relax positively. Don't just let relaxation
happen, or not happen, at the mercy of work, family, etc. Plan it, and look
forward to it. Different people prefer different things. A long bath, a
quiet stroll, sitting and just listening to a piece of music, etc. These
times are not wasteful, and you should not feel guilty about not 'getting on
with things'. They can be times of reflection and putting life back in
Some people find it useful to set time aside for a relaxation programme such
as meditation or muscular exercises. You can also buy relaxation tapes to
help you learn to relax.
Try to allow several times a day to 'stop' and take some time out. For
example, getting up 15-20 minutes earlier than you need to is a good start.
You can use this time to think about and plan the coming day, and to prepare
for the day's events unrushed. Take a regular and proper lunch break,
preferably away from work. Don't work over lunch. If work is busy, if
possible try and take 5 or 10 minutes away every few hours to relax.
Once or twice a week, try to plan some time just to be alone and
unobtainable. For example, a gentle stroll or a sit in the park often helps
to break out of life's hustle and bustle.
Many people claim that regular exercise reduces their level of stress.
(It also keeps you fit and helps to prevent heart disease.) Any exercise is
good, but try to plan at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days
a week. A brisk walk on most days is a good start if you are not used to
exercise. In addition, if you have difficulty in sleeping this may improve
if you exercise regularly.
Smoking and alcohol
Don't be fooled that smoking and drinking can help with stress. In the long
run, they don't. Drinking alcohol to 'calm nerves' is often a slippery slope
to heavier and problem drinking.
Many people find that a hobby which has no deadlines, no pressures, and
which can be picked up or left easily, takes the mind off stresses. For
example: sports, knitting, music, model-making, puzzles, and reading for
Some people find they have times in their life when stress or anxiety
becomes severe or difficult to cope with. See a doctor if stress or anxiety
becomes worse. Further treatments such as anxiety management counselling or
medication may be appropriate.
If you would like to discuss any of the
mental health issues raised on this page or find out how counselling might
Anxiety UK is a national registered charity formed 40 years ago by a
sufferer of agoraphobia for those affected by anxiety disorders. Today they
are still a user-led organisation, run by sufferers and ex-sufferers of
anxiety disorders, supported by a high-profile medical advisory panel.
Anxiety UK works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders
by providing information, support and understanding via an extensive range
helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing
high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect
good mental health for everyone. How can we help you
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In this section you will find a
selection of leaflets you can download or print.
Leaflet from Counselling Directory
Self help leaflet from NHS Northumberland
Self help leaflet from MoodJuice
Swindon and District Samaritans has been
offering emotional support to those in crisis for more than 40 years. You
can call or email 24hrs a day.
Local branch of the national charity providing support,
resources and drop-in sessions.