How to Manage Stress Levels

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of the people they surveyed felt stress to the point of being overwhelmed or unable to cope over the course of a year. Knowing you’re not alone can go a long way in helping you feel better, but from a practical level, here are some ways the NHS recommends you can help lower your stress levels:

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Connect

Positive relationships are a crucial part of keeping mentally healthy. With the right kind, they can:

  • Enhance your sense of self-worth and belonging
  • Share positive experiences with those you spend time with
  • Give you emotional support when you need it, and help others in turn

There are plenty of ways to build stronger relationships:

Do

  • Wherever possible, try to set dedicated time with family, or close friends. For example, for those living with others, a meal together at 5.30pm, no matter what else you have going on.
  • If you work in an office, try to avoid eating lunch at your desk. Instead, try sitting with a colleague – there are always potential friendships out there.
  • Set a date in the diary – perhaps the first and third Thursday of the month for a meet up or a walk with friends. Something to plan and look forward to.
  • Find out where you can volunteer – there are always places that welcome help. If you have an interest in retail, try volunteering at a charity shop, or if you like the outdoors why not get in touch with the National Trust or find a community garden to tend to?
  • Does the screen usually act as the social catalyst in your home? Try turning it off and talking or playing a game together.
  • Whilst socializing in person is always preferable, where it’s not as possible due to distance or lockdown restrictions, use modern technology. Video chat apps like Zoom and WhatsApp are wonderful ways of staying in contact with loved ones further away. If you struggle with using this technology, we have useful, easy to follow, video guides you can use to get started.

Don’t

  • Building on from the “do” above, it’s important to try not to rely on technology for all communication. It can be easy to slip into bad habits of thinking you are in touch with your friends and family because you’ve seen some photos on your Facebook feed, but don’t let this replace real quality time/phone conversations.
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Get up and go!

Being physically active is known to be a great way of keeping your body fit and healthy – but did you know it’s also been shown to improve your mental wellbeing too? Evidence suggests it:

  • Helps you to set yourself challenges and goals – this will push you to new levels and achieve more than you know.
  • Raises self-esteem – if you accomplish the goal of walking around the garden 10 times, you feel better about yourself; you did it! You can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Releases endorphins – these are chemicals in the body that make you feel better about life. They trigger receptors in the brain to create positivity and feeling good.

There are lots of ways you can get active; you just need to find one right for you:

Do

  • The NHS has a fantastic list of activities you can do for free – have a read through their suggestions and try a new one today.
  • If you have a disability or long-term health condition, they also have a list of activities to try.
  • There are many reasons you might be sat down for most of the day – whether through work or health related conditions. Try out some of these seated exercises.
  • Enjoy the great outdoors – read our list of activities you can enjoy outside.
  • Swimming, dancing, cycling; there are endless ways of being active; what suits you best?

Don’t

  • Being active does not mean you need to spend money on a gym subscription. There are plenty of ways to become more active for free, such as going for local walks or following a home workout video. Find out what you enjoy and get going!
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Discover hidden talents

You can help improve your mental wellbeing by learning a new skill or two. It helps to:

  • Connect with others through shared interests.
  • Boost your self confidence in what you can accomplish.
  • Give you a purpose for your day, with something specific you want to achieve.

You might not feel like there are enough hours in the day, you might think you don’t have anything else you’d like to learn, but in reality, there are all sorts of ways you can bring learning into your life:

Do

  • Have a look at courses offered by colleges – these can either be done in person or at home with distance learning. How about learning a new language, or a skill such as plastering?
  • Look for hobbies that will feel like a challenge – learn to paint, pick up a tennis racket, or go online and start a blog; the possibilities are endless.
  • Do you have anything in your home that you’ve kept meaning to get someone round to fix? A broken fence, a dryer that doesn’t work very well, a bike that has been sat around forever. DIY is a fantastic skill to learn. Thanks to YouTube, there are tutorials out there for almost everything.
  • Try learning to cook! You don’t have to be Britain’s next top chef, but try a recipe that is a little out of your comfort zone and see if you can learn some skills. We have lots of recipes you could try.

Don’t

  • You shouldn’t force yourself into something you don’t find interesting – if you enjoy what you’re learning, you’re a lot more likely to continue with it.
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Be kind to others

Acts of giving and kindness have been proven to help your mental wellbeing and lower stress because they:

  • Help you connect with others.
  • Bring a sense of reward and positive vibes.
  • Help your feelings of purpose and self-worth.

There are small things you could do for someone; like getting some shopping for a neighbour, or bigger; like volunteering for the National Trust. Other examples are:

  • Smiling at people you pass in the street, those who serve you in a shop, or the bus driver as you walk on and off. It costs nothing and can brighten someone’s day.
  • Asking people how they are – and then really listening to the answer. Listen to just listen, rather than listening to reply.
  • Spend time with people who are in need of a little extra support and love (following government guidelines).
  • Offer to help someone with their DIY project (at the recommended social distance, or if they are in your bubble) – if you aren’t physically able, even some company whilst they do it might be helpful.
  • Once government restrictions allow again, you could volunteer at a school fair, hospital, community centre or charity shop. If you’re willing to help, there is always something you can do.
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Learn Mindfulness

Mindfulness might seem like a fairly recent invention, but it has been around for thousands of years in different forms – you might be most familiar with a version called “meditation”. Learning how to pay more attention to the present moment means that you can lower stress levels by recognising your thoughts and feelings, and be more aware of the world around you.

If you’d like more information about mindfulness and how you can get started, we’d recommend reading our article, A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness.

Life can be stressful – it’s inevitable. At some point, even the calmest, most “together” of us will experience stress. We hope that by following our recommendations above, you can move towards being more calm, collected and happy.

Try talking about your feelings to a family member, friend, GP or counsellor. The Samaritans are also always there to listen, you can call: 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org if you need someone to talk to.

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