While external stress and demands are largely unavoidable in modern life, most don’t realise how effectively one can build mental strength to help you to more effectively manage it.
Stress is a natural response to pressure, such as when you feel you must meet the expectations of yourself, others or situations.
Common causes of stress are work and study pressure, relationships, finances, or even standards we impose on ourselves. For instance, you might feel that you should be calm and cheerful all the time, therefore you have let yourself down if you feel tense and unhappy.
Here are some great tips on how to release stress by addressing your mental and physical health.
Recognise when you are stressed, and take personal responsibility for managing it
It’s important to acknowledge that you are feeling stressed – rather than denying it. Telling yourself you ‘shouldn’t’ be stressed when you are is only going to increase the pressure. Then decide affirmatively (and be determined) to take control to manage it. Feeling ‘helpless’ with no ‘locus of control’ is highly predictive in all of the stress literature of worse outcomes – it is critically important that humans feel that they must have some control (even if it’s a mental attitude that ‘this won’t beat me- I will survive and thrive) to even become more resilient and stronger as a result of a stressful events.
Build a stronger mind
Developing a healthier mind can be done through increasing positive social connections and through living your life with purpose and meaning.
Meditation and mindfulness can also help by allowing you to draw on your inner reserves and by tapping into your calm ‘core’ within – another method to give you a break from your constant ‘mental chattering’. It will also help you to check and strengthen your attitude towards ‘problems’ – am I ‘catastrophizing ‘ e.g. saying “I have the awful flu’ rather than ‘I have a minor cold ‘ (unless its true of course) , ‘am I always looking for the negatives’, ‘am I not looking for how to turn this around to be a positive for me’ (look up Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You by Deborah Khoshaba and Salvatore R. Maddi)
Change your expectations
It’s often the case that people with very high standards are also the most prone to high levels of stress and burnout. Learning how to reduce your expectations of others and yourself, of how things ‘should’ be can help you to feel more relaxed and peaceful. Learn to ‘relax’ and be more spacious. Professional fighters for example in perhaps the most stressful environments that humans face (where someone is trying to physically injure you) train themselves to relax in the midst of high conflict and manage their energies through mental toughness- if not they easily ‘gas out’ and lose.
Build a healthy body
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, fresh air and simply having fun can build your capacity to manage stress. Exercises that require 100% concentration (most competitive sports) force your brain to ‘switch off ‘ from its usual worrying – mental chatter- thus giving you a well need break ….Lookup the work on “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Exercise can also help burn off stress as well as calories: 150 minutes of exercise a week is recommended for most people – this equates to around 30 minutes a day for 5 days of the week.
The Mediterranean Diet with berries 3 times a week for example has been shown to build brain cell resilience from degeneration.
Getting help from a professional counsellor or therapist to make these changes in an evidence proven manner is to be applauded as too few people take repsonsisiblitly to improve their mental abilities to cope and too few ask for help.
Get plenty of sleep and rest
Rest and sleep (9 hours a day is optimal for humans) helps your body and mind to recover from the bombardments of daily life, and is important for brain cell detoxification by getting rid of waste products and learning of new memories.
Rest can come through work breaks, holidays, or through regular naps – which have been shown to help reduce stress and boost immunity.
If getting enough sleep at night is a problem, you should speak to your doctor or health professional for assistance.