HOP's Top Two Tips to Combat Stress.
It’s stress awareness month, so let’s have a look at what it is, how we handle it, and what to do if it’s getting on top of us.
What is it?
Stress, according to the NHS, is the ‘body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure’. It’s important to remember that pressure can be positive or negative. An example of positive pressure is going on a rollercoaster for fun (if that’s your thing!), or getting a promotion at work with a pay rise. It’s this type of positive stress that can motivate us to achieve our goals – to go further than we thought we could.
Negative stress is something that can affect us badly if we don’t take steps to care for ourselves. It can cause you to feel anxious, emotional or frightened, which then prevents you from making decisions and keeping on top of your game. Worse, negative stress affects the body, maybe making you feel sick, giving you butterflies, or aggravating rashes and tightening your neck and shoulders. Left unchecked, stress can really suck the pleasure from life, and lead to health complications in the future.
Best avoided, right?
It can be caused by major life changes like moving from school to college, problems at home or between friends, or being discriminated against. Our own choices can also affect whether we experience stress – maybe we don’t leave ourselves enough time to complete homework or assignments, or we don’t want to let people down.
It can be unavoidable sometimes – but here are two concrete and scientifically recommended things that you can do to help you get through the difficult periods, and back into feeling in control and positive.
We all breath, all the time, but consciously taking control of the breath is one of the best ways to calm yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Box breathing is scientifically proven to help with stress management, and is recommended by health professionals and, amazingly, by US special forces soldiers to help calm their minds in difficult circumstances. It’s really simple, and easy to practice anytime and anywhere. Practice with the video below!
Meditation, or mindfulness, is simply being able to remain focused in the present moment. It’s the opposite of being distracted, and we can often be distracted by worries about the future, regret about the past, and certainly by scrolling on the phone! To fight distraction, we have to consciously try and be present, wherever that is. It’s easier to do this outside, or when we are alone, but eventually we can be mindful, or present, pretty much anywhere, and this helps us focus and do better at studying.
Set aside a few minutes on a regular basis to just be present – listen to the sounds around you (whether it’s birdsong or traffic), paying attention to your posture, and relaxing your breathing. When your mind wanders, (and it will!), just bring it back to your relaxed breathing. Practice for a few minutes at a time, and remember the feeling of calm, relaxed presence that you feel. Try and keep that feeling as much as possible during the day.
Below is a basic meditation that takes a few minutes, and can be used to fight distractions when you’re trying to study.
Do them anyway!
With all of these methods, you don’t have to be stressed out to benefit. Learn them and practice before you need them, and there’s less chance of the mental and physical effects of stress getting on top of you. So do them anyway, do them often, and be confident that you have some rock solid tools to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, and lessen the effects of stress.
And that’s how we start to turn stress into success – happy stress awareness day!
Find out more about stress awareness month HERE.