How to manage stress
In today’s busy world, it’s not uncommon for people to feel stressed. If left unchecked, stress can lead to a variety of health concerns, including anxiety and depression.
In this article, Dr Susan Barnett, a GP counsellor at Bluff Road Medical Centre, shares some practical tips to help keep stress levels in check. Read on for details about Dr Barnett’s NEW monthly talks at Bluff Road Medical, offering strategies to promote wellness and better mental health.
Get the basics right
Tip #1: Form good sleep habits
Sleep is crucial to human function. It allows our bodies to recuperate and recharge, and makes us more resilient to stress.
Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.
Tip #2: Make time for exercise
Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and plays an important role in how you feel. It boosts endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, and reduces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Make exercise a priority. Aim to do about 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.
Tip #3: Eat well
Stress can cause a range of physiological changes in the body, including the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands, and an increase in blood sugar. Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is imperative to helping our bodies to manage these changes.
Avoid highly processed foods such as white bread, sweets and biscuits, and eat a rainbow of whole foods. Vitamin C, magnesium and B Vitamins are particularly important to support adrenal function.
Work on your mental health
Tip #4: Learn how to be mindful
Mindfulness is a state of being intentionally focused on the present moment. The practice is beneficial in stress reduction, as it allows you to recognise stressful situations and observe them without reaction or judgement. As a result, your stress responses may be less intense.
When it comes to learning mindfulness, it’s a practical type of learning – something you have to experience. You could do a mindfulness course, seek advice from a psychologist, take up yoga, or try a mindfulness app such as 1 Giant Mind or Buddhify.
Note: If you try mindfulness and you find your mind wandering, don’t despair. Part of being mindful is recognising your mind has wandered, then bringing it back to the present moment. These are the kinds of techniques we’ll teach you at our workshops.
Tip #5: Practice gratitude
Practising gratitude helps us to see the good in difficult people, to recognise opportunity during challenging situations and to appreciate what we have. When faced with stressful situations, it helps us to remain optimistic about the outcome and to cope. Practicing regular gratitude can even cause changes in the brain. As the brain rewires, you actually become happier and more content.
Cultivating a sense of gratitude is something you can learn. In our workshops, we give you exercises to increase feelings of gratitude in your daily life. A simple example may be asking family members what went well with their day at the dinner table.
Tip #6: Be kind to yourself
Us humans can be pretty hard on ourselves, and we are often our own worst critics. Being kind to yourself is fundamental in managing stress in our daily lives. There’s evidence to show that people who practice self-compassion tend to have better self-esteem, less anxiety and a better quality of life because they don’t beat themselves up when they make a mistake.
In our workshops, we teach you how to practice self-compassion with practical exercises. As an example, we ask you to reflect on a scenario of a friend who is struggling. How would you console them? What would your tone be? We then encourage you to apply that same kindness to yourself the next time you’re stressed.
Tip #7: Practice self-care
Nowadays, we put so much pressure on ourselves, and as a result, the essentials such as exercise, sleep and eating well can suffer. We get caught on the treadmill of life and sometimes it takes a tragedy or for us to become unwell before we stop and make a change.
At our workshops, we encourage clients to make the change sooner rather than later. In our Work-Life Balance workshop, for example, we get people to do an audit of their week and write down all the tasks they perform. Once it’s on paper, we look at where they are allocating their time, and whether their lives are balanced.
We hope you’ve found these tips for managing stress helpful. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay and to ask for help! At Bluff Road Medical Centre, our GPs have a variety of special interests and are ready to assist in any way they can. We also work with a range of allied health professionals, so please reach out!
Want to know more? Sign up for our NEW workshops.
Dr Barnett and family therapist and counsellor Dagmar Marek conduct regular monthly talks at Bluff Road Medical about wellness and better mental health.
When: First Thursday of the month, 7pm-9pm
Cost: $80 for 1 x workshop, $210 for 3 x workshops
For further information please visit dagmarmarek.com.au or call (03) 9598 6244.
About Dr Susan Barnett:
Dr Susan Barnett has been a GP since 2003. In 2010, she completed further training to be able to offer counselling to her patients.