Why stress is the worst and how to deal with it

It’s Stress Awareness Day today so we’re looking at how to stop stress sneaking up on you.

Nowadays we’re expected to have a nice house, happy family, bring home the bacon, be well informed, well read and well rested, recycle, look good, exercise, meditate, stay up to date with the 5 million Breaking Bad spin-offs, see friends, cook, save money, text back, garden, have hobbies, volunteer, shop sustainably, eat our five a day and drink enough water.

I’m knackered just thinking about it, so it’s no wonder stress has been named the health epidemic of the 21st century.

Stresstiny’s Child

Stress doesn’t sound like a particularly big deal – we all get stressed at times and it can be quite a good motivator. There are points where it can get on top of you though, and it’s surprising how much of an impact it can have.stress awareness day

I once went to the doctor with shooting pains in my chest, convinced I was having a heart attack.

I got rushed in and after 10 minutes of questioning, the doctor asked if I could be stressed.

At first I couldn’t believe I could be having such an extreme reaction to something like stress. Then I started to think about it and realised I had actually been going through quite a stressful time.

Not only had I not realised how stressed I’d been, I had no idea that it could have such an effect on my body.

Turns out, stress can be serious and lead to mental health issues, physical problems and a feeling of extreme rubbishness.

So make sure you look after yourself, whatever the reason you’re feeling stressed.

Signs of stress

Everyone reacts to stress differently and it can come out in a whole mess of ways.

You might feel crabby, anxious or really tense; wired and like you can’t sleep, or just absolutely shattered all the time.

You could even feel depressed or just like you’re in a bubble and nothing really matters.

Physically, you might start getting chest pains and headaches, feel short of breath, have a spike in blood pressure or get heartburn. The list goes on, I’m afraid.

Under stressure?

This might not be what you want to hear as it’s getting drearier by the day, but regular exercise is the number one way to cope with stress. Find what works for you and just give it a go – speaking from experience getting on some boxing gloves and hitting a punching bag is extremely therapeutic.

If you’re stressed because you’re super busy, there are ways of fitting some exercise into your day – like parking a bit further away from the office and walking the last bit. Anything to get you moving and out in nature is a success.

If you can figure out what makes you stressed, you can also put plans in place to manage these situations.

For example, I’ve been really busy recently and kept cancelling on a regular Tuesday evening commitment. I’d keep feeling like I could push through and make it, then it’d get to an hour before and I’d feel rubbish, but would be stressed because I didn’t want to cancel last minute. I try and look at my week ahead on a Sunday to see how much I’ve got on. This way, I can give them plenty of notice if I’m probably not going to make it.

Looking after yourself can also help you be more resilient and deal with stress better. This can be simple things from eating well, sleeping enough or getting some fresh air, to taking time out for friends, using mindfulness or relaxation techniques, or just saying no sometimes.

As I’ve found, getting organised and scheduling in downtime all really help me manage stress. You can’t do it all so prioritise what you can, and don’t beat yourself up about the rest.

Once you’ve figured out why you’re stressed, it puts you in a good position to tackle the cause. For example, if money worries are stressing you out, try and get financial advice from places like Citizens Advice. If you’re an Onward customer, get in touch with our Financial Inclusion team for free and confidential support.

Sadly there are some things that you can’t control but, as cheesy as it sounds, what you can control is how you deal with the situation.

That’s not to say you ‘shouldn’t’ feel stressed or you can think your way out of stress, but try not to freak out too much about not being able to control everything.

Make stress your best friend

Stress can make your mind race, your heart pound, your stomach churn and your body jittery – all of which feels like panic. However, it’s also very similar to an adrenaline rush.

Some studies have shown that stress is only bad for you when you believe it is. So, when you start to feel stressed, try and think of it as your body trying to prepare you for the job at hand. Obviously this is more for short-term situations and doesn’t downplay the serious effects stress can have, but it’s worth a try.


Get help

If you really feel like you’re totally overwhelmed or can’t cope, talk to friends and family or see your GP who can help recommend tactics to manage stress.

Work stress can be massive, so speak to a manager, colleague or HR if you’re overwhelmed at work.

Here’s a list of organisations that can help you with stress.

If you’re an Onward customer, we can support you on a range of things that might cause stress, from getting your home adapted to your needs, to financial support and dealing with antisocial behaviour.

Get in touch to have a chat about how we can help

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