9 Strategies To Manage Stress And Build Resilience
8 minutes read
Year three in COVID-19, the devastation in Ukraine, global economic and social situations worsening, it goes without saying that anxiety has reached epic levels, and here we are all struggling to find a silver lining while becoming more stressed than ever.
It’s a lie to say people are even close to fine.
Experts agree. Emerging evidence shows most of us are struggling with the pandemic more than we might think.
It’s one thing to say, or even think, we’re feeling fine as if two years went by like a walk in the park. But how we feel on the inside is something else entirely. Experts say our mood is a complicated mixture of biochemistry, psychology and environment.
The good news is that you’re not alone. Even better: there are ways to help. In this article, leading mental health experts share their stress management strategies at home, work or whenever you feel under stress.
How to tell if you’re stressed or burnout?
“Stress is a natural physiological and psychological response that can generate the extra resources that we need to get through tricky short-term situations,” Richard Reid, psychotherapist and CEO of Pinnacle Wellbeing Services, tells Beauty Daily.
Experts say transient bursts of stress can be weathered without a negative impact and, often, can even be productive. However, the threshold will be different for everybody.
We are all wired differently and how we interpret situations as ‘stressful’ varies from person to person based on genetics, upbringing, environment, life experiences, trauma and overall well being.
Reid explains: “As stress takes a lot out of the body, it is only ever meant to be experienced for brief periods. But when we experience stress for longer periods, we become less aware of the full ongoing impact, meaning that we can normalise the experience. Overextended periods can lead to burnout and depression.”
Why is stress harmful?
Financial worries, long work hours, strained relationships, even poor nutrition, loneliness and pollution are leading stressors, which have significant pressure on our brains and bodies, which, when built up, can lead to issues over time.
Experts call this built-up stress ‘allostatic load,’ a cumulative burden of chronic stress and life events.
Jarnhamn explains, “I tend to compare it (allostatic load) to a credit card that you keep on using but never pay off. Eventually, it will stop working. This is when allostatic overload has occurred and you collapse, burn out, or worse. Long-term, it can also lead to eg. cardiovascular diseases, mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases.”
“Weak physiological resilience (our ability to positively adapt to changes in our environment) makes us less able to deal with stressors in our environment. Therefore, learning about and understanding how we can influence our physiological resilience and allostatic load is key,” she adds.
What is stress management?
Stress management is a range of tools, techniques, or strategies that are designed to reduce stress, its negative impact on an individual’s overall health (physical and mental wellbeing) and developing/ building resilience to emerge more robust in the face of adversity. Science-backed and proven stress management techniques are said to help one repel the consuming effects of stress and reclaim and restore inner peace.
There are various techniques that can be used to manage stress. These include mental, emotional, and behavioural strategies.
Why is stress management important in 2022?
New stats released by the Office of the National Statistics say around 4 in 10 adults (43%) are very or somewhat worried about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives right now, the lowest share since October 2021. This is in addition to research published by the Health and Safety Executive, a UK government agency, saying that in the few years before the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety had shown signs of increasing. In 2020/21, the rate was higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels.
The pandemic has generated an environment where feeling stressed is often the default. As a result, prolonged effects of stress and unhealthy behaviour changes are common. Indeed, routine tasks and decision-making have become more difficult during the pandemic.
As each day can bring a new set of decisions about safety, security, growth, travel, work, and other life requirements, people seem to be increasingly wracked with uncertainty. So, yes, we all need effective stress management strategies to survive the pandemic and make sure we’re all coming out stronger (not more stressed) than ever.
Pro Tip: “Work-life balance is one of the biggest things we all struggle with in this world of constant connection and constant availability. Finding time to switch off must be one of our priorities if we want to perform at our best at work or home. When somebody is at the point of meltdown, my number one strategy is to just… Stop,” advises Corina Zanner-Entwistle, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, CEO of Executive Mind Solutions.
Adding, “Take a deep breath (or two or three, making sure the out-breath is longer than the in-breath) and then focus on what you can do in that given situation – there is always something, no matter how small – and then what else can you do – and what else? This is a very powerful technique in an emergency.”
Expert-Approved Self Help Stress Management Techniques
Three global mental health experts share ways to manage stress at home, work and wherever you feel the worst of it.
Richard Reid, psychotherapist and CEO of Pinnacle Wellbeing Services
The temptation is to pretend that everything is OK. However, organisations have a duty of care to support their people. Sometimes, sharing the issues with a colleague, Line Manager, HR, Occupational Health or a designated Mental Health First Aider, can allow others to provide you with emotional reassurance or make practical adjustments to your work routine or responsibilities.
Place greater priority on some of the activities that nourish you
Spend more time with friends and family. Exercising and spending time outdoors have also been shown to improve well-being. Equally, doing something creative can be a useful way of readdressing the balance. Getting some healthy structure around essential building blocks, like food, alcohol intake and sleep, is also essential.
Ask for help when needed
If you feel that you are on the edge of a meltdown, then it is important to take quick and affirmative actions. Ideally, you should reach out to a sympathetic friend or relative. Alternatively, you may wish to seek professional support from your GP or a therapist.
Linda Jarnhamn, Founder of flow²thrive
Identify and recognise what is causing stress and control what you can control
There are always things we can control that will make us feel better, and simply feeling in control will take you one step further.
Track your HRV (Heart Rate Variability)
There are many wearables today that track Heart Rate Variability (HRV), one of the most frequently used measures for autonomic balance and physiological resilience. Use biofeedback to identify early signs and track wellbeing risk. This will also help you identify the causes of stress, and you will be able to see how changes in habits impact your wellbeing.
Learn about how you can strengthen your physiological resilience
I have developed a simple model: ‘’the flow²thrive way of living multiplier’’ model which basically includes seven multipliers that have a direct impact on your physiological resilience and brain health: nutrition, exercise, recharge, sleep, nature, social and development.
Corina Zanner-Entwistle, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, CEO of Executive Mind Solutions
Awareness is the first step
Being aware of the symptoms of burnout as well as your own thoughts, feelings and emotions mean that when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, you can take steps immediately. Sometimes we need some support in figuring this out, which is where a coach or therapist can be very helpful.
Tools and Strategies
Having tools and strategies at hand that you can use daily and/or when you get overwhelmed ensure you can stop that downward spiral immediately. Tools that will keep you calm, such as aromatherapy to boost wellbeing, taking deep breaths while squishing mindfulness stress balls or wellness tools such as sensate to calm your nerves.
It does not mean that you will never feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed, but it means that, when you do, you know that it is temporary, that things will get better and that you can cope.
Stress management strategies include 1. Developing a healthy lifestyle (exercising, eating a balanced diet to nourish your body and mind, getting enough sleep to give your mind and body time to refuel and re-energise); 2. Cultivating a positive mindset (focusing your thoughts on positive things); 3. Having a strong support system (somebody that you can talk to when you are struggling is important.)
One of the most crucial things you can do when you are stressed or anxious is to make sure you look after yourself. Make time to relax when you need to and do small things everyday that feed your soul. Self-care can also include creating boundaries and learning to say “no” to things. It also includes creating boundaries between work time and home time – especially when working from home.