Six tips to help you stress less

Manage Stress

Phoebe Craw

Posted October 06, 2021

The World Health Organisation dubbed stress the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’. Here are some tips to help you battle your burdens. 

Try as we might, we can't always avoid the big stresses in life.

Moving house, relationship breakdowns or starting a new job – sometimes there’s no getting around how hard these periods of our lives can be.

"Stress affects our bodies biologically, as it releases cortisol and adrenaline, which leaves us anxious and drained," says Kate McHugh, a mental health practitioner from Mind Australia. "Trauma puts our bodies into fight or flight mode, and when this is ongoing it can be detrimental to our physical and mental health". So, how do we mitigate the strain on our bodies and minds in difficult life periods?

Before we dive into these tips and tricks, it’s important to remember that everyone’s situation is unique, so some of these points will work for some, but not for others. If you feel that you’re in need of support, always reach out to those around you or speak to a professional.

Six tips to help you stress less

Plan where you can 

Though we can’t plan for many of life's stressful events, some do come with a calendar date.

If there's a day coming up that’s going to need a tough conversation, appointment, or meeting, consider what you can do to reduce as much stress as possible on that day.

Should you book a taxi or Uber in advance? Reach out to a friend or family member who can come with you or meet you afterwards? Pre-prepare meals so you don't need to cook? It's these little things that can go a long way to making the event less stressful.  

Your comeback is coming, at your pace

Depending on the life event you’re dealing with, many of us experience pressure to bounce back quickly and effortlessly – whether the pressure is coming from yourself or others. Just remember that everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all script for these experiences.

Setting achievable goals will help. This could mean going for walks rather than 15km runs. Or aiming to add just one new vegetable to your diet every day for a week. Or ticking off one life-admin job.

By taking things one day at a time and breaking down the mountains in front of you into tiny stones can put things into perspective and help you feel less overwhelmed.  

Focus on your health

When we're having a difficult time, we all want to reach for the chocolate and the bottle of wine. But research has now shown that healthy eating is critical to good mental health as well as physical health. So, try to get lots of different types of plant foods into your diet and minimise your junk foods - without beating yourself up when you do occasionally indulge.

Addressing these habits will also help with sleep. By prioritising getting enough sleep is one of the best things we can do to make each day more manageable. 

Get moving 

While spending the day in bed and watching Netflix may be tempting, getting your body moving, even if it's just a walk or a short workout, is a great way to help with stress. Research has shown that physical activity, particularly if it also involves spending time in nature, is a great way to reduce feelings of stress and boost your mood.

If going to the gym doesn’t inspire much excitement, consider lounge room dance parties for one, dog walks, signing up for a netball or soccer team, or finding an exercise buddy. 

Take time for yourself 

Self-care can be put on the back burner when we have a lot on our plates. But making time to do something relaxing or that we enjoy every day ­– even if just for a short time – can have big effects on our wellbeing and our ability to handle whatever is happening in life. 

"Taking even ten minutes out of our day to do something that releases serotonin and endorphins can break the stress cycle human bodies experience in crisis," says McHugh. "This looks different to everyone, it could be slow deep breathing, exercise, hugs, having a big cry or laugh, meditation, or engaging in something creative. It's about making time to be present in our bodies and in the moment." 

Reach out to support networks 

Whatever is going on in your life, you don't need to go through it alone. Reach out to your friends and let them know if you’re not coping. If you feel you need greater support, it is always a good idea to (also) talk to a mental health professional. There is also some great information and resources online at your disposal at LifelineBeyond Blue or Black Dog.