Tips on how to reduce your stress levels

Are you aware of your stress levels?
Are you aware of your stress levels?

It’s Stress Awareness Month, and although it might seem like a really daft question – are you really aware when you’re stressed? And if so, how are you dealing with it?

Women seem to be feeling the effects of stress more than their male counterparts according to a raft of recent studies, and not just at work either. It seems home life has become a source of stress for women in the UK, and we need to get to grips with the problem before it makes us all ill.

Women tend to feel stress differently to men too. In a study carried out back in 2008, the women surveyed reported that they were more likely to feel sad and anxious when they were stressed, and not only that, they tended to chew over the feelings. It’s this tendency to a ‘washing machine head’ that can get in the way of actually dealing with stress and the problems that lead to it.

Women also turn to their friends when they get stressed out. While men react in the classic ‘fight or flight’ way, women are more likely to opt for the ‘tend and befriend’ approach, and reach out for social support when they are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed.

Women tend to suffer more from stress-related conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well, which can compound the problem, so it’s really important that if you feel the stress levels start to rise, you take the time out to come up with coping mechanisms, support networks, or even just ways to blow off steam. If there’s no obvious solution to the problem that’s making you anxious, try taking:

Calm yourself down with relaxation, meditation and visualisation techniques.

Just Google any of the words and you’ll find oodles of free MP3s to download. Alternatively, there are CDs available in bookshops and health shops, or you could find a book in your local library and teach yourself.

Get Active!

Even if you think you hate it, getting outside in the fresh air will often give you a bit of perspective on the problem. Get out in nature if you can, find a local park or coast to wander. Sea air is brilliant for stress; all the negative ions will refresh you and invigorate you. If you’re at work, just a walk around the block in your lunch break, with or without loud music on your MP3 player, can blow off some steam.

Do something for YOU

When do you do anything that’s just for you? Ideally, you should make time every day to do something nice. It doesn’t have to cost the earth; obviously a spa break would be ideal but we can’t have those every day of the week, no matter how lovely it might sound. Try these for a few ideas:

• Paint your nails in a pretty colour or get a manicure

• Have an indulgent bubble bath

• Treat yourself to a trashy magazine or a read of a book

• Listen to your favourite album really, really loud and sing along

• Watch a funny film on DVD or go to the cinema – alone if you like.

• Phone your best friend/boyfriend/mum for a gossip

• Get absorbed in drawing, crafting, photography or scrapbooking – a creative hobby is a great outlet

• Write it all down in a journal or diary. Write poetry, short stories or anything you fancy.

If stress is really starting to have a detrimental effect on your life, it’s time to deal with it. Talk to someone professional, make an appointment with your doctor, and see if you can arrange a meeting with your boss if the stress is at work. Ask people for help; you really don’t have to do everything yourself just because you’re a woman.

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