Stress. n. “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.
A definition that almost certainly resonates with many – particularly during this unprecedented period of dealing with the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Even without a global health crisis to contend with, most of us at some point are likely to have found ourselves in a situation where we feel stressed.
Stress can be debilitating, and can cause and/or aggravate health problems. And since stress is a normal part of human life - nobody is immune to it - it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we recognise the signs ahead of the times when stress is going to rear its ugly head. The problem can be that sometimes we don’t even see it in ourselves if we are inwardly (or ‘blindly’) stressed.
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992 and aims to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for this modern mental epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year that “they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.” That is a worrying statistic, particularly as we are in an industry where the wellbeing of the children in our care is paramount.
The Stress Management Society, which founded Stress Awareness Month, has many resources and ideas to help you during times of stress, including how to understand stress itself and different coping mechanisms you can use.
You can even take a stress test here!
Here are our top tips for alleviating stress – you could try discussing these in your next team meeting. You may be surprised how many people actually do some of these things already!
One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to learn how to silence the mind. Meditation is one of the most popular methods of achieving this quiet.
Mindworks is a blog for meditation novices and has some great tips which you can share with your colleagues.
A proven way to battle the debilitating effects of stress is to exercise. Whether you’re a jogger, cyclist, or just like to take long walks, be sure to get some fresh air and exercise into your daily routine. You may spend a lot of time cooped up indoors, either at work during the day or at home during the evening. But, going outside to get some fresh air can work wonders for relaxing you. Try taking a short walk around the block on your lunch break, or spending time in green spaces when you come back from work.
Focus on your breathing
Taking just a few minutes out of your day to focus on deep breathing can help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Find somewhere you can sit quietly without being disturbed, then focus on breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. See if you can make each inhale and exhale last for a count of 4 seconds, and adjust the count until you feel at your most comfortable.
Listen to music
Music feeds our mood and can affect our emotions, so listening to a few of our favourite tracks can make us instantly feel much better. If you feel like getting up and dancing around the room whilst listening to music, indulge yourself. If you’d prefer to sit and close your eyes whilst you listen on your headphones, that’s okay too! Do whatever works best for you.
Discover your creative side
Taking part in an activity which requires you to be creative can help you instantly de-stress. Try writing in a journal, doing an adult colouring book, learning an instrument, drawing or baking. Experiment with whatever feeds your creativity, and enjoy the process rather than focusing too much on what the outcome will be.
Have a technology detox
Although designed to destress, just the mention of those words can have the ability to make some people even more stressed than they already were! Checking social media is often the first thing we do when we wake, and the last thing we do before we go to bed. However, finding out what’s happening in everyone else’s life often conflicts with our own wellbeing; leaving us under constant pressure to check newsfeeds and scroll through new photos. Take a step back from your phone and make sure the last hour before bed is technology-free – this will help you unwind and get to sleep much quicker.
"One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to learn how to silence the mind."
Top tips for learners!
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is essential – make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours a night and if you’re feeling tired, you could even think about squeezing in a short nap if you’re at home! Making sure that you get enough sleep will set you up for the day and give you more energy to put into your studies; feeling energised will only make you feel happier and healthier.
Take a bath
Bathing is one of the most relaxing things you can do: chuck in a bath bomb, put on some music and let the hot water take away your stresses. You’ll feel 100 times better when you get out. Listening to music at the same time as having a bath releases endorphins in your body (hormones that make you happy), so what could be more de-stressing!
Staying hydrated is essential. If you haven’t been drinking enough, you’ll feel groggy and tired; leaving you unable to study when you need to. It’s recommended that you drink at least 8 glasses of liquid day. Water, tea, coffee and fruit juice all count towards your fluid intake.
Make a study schedule
If you can plan your time down on paper you’ll be able to see exactly when you do and don’t have time to study, and where you can get some extra revision in. Planning how much you have to do and knowing how long you have to do it will make you feel a lot better.