The most common thing I get asked about is stress and how to deal with it. And by this I mean the stress that feels too much and unmanageable, not the everyday little bit of stress that gets us up in the morning and going about our day.
Some stress is to be expected in life and is unavoidable for the most part. However, if it is affecting your health in a negative way, making you feel very anxious or depressed, or making your life feel unbearable and not worth living, it is time to get working on reducing your stress.
Stress levels are hard to measure, as different people react to events in their lives in different ways. Things you find stressful may not be stressful for someone else, and vice versa. The most important thing is to trust your gut when it is telling you that things are becoming overwhelming.
Also keep an eye out for the following signs: Rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, headaches, feeling irritated/agitated, sleeping problems, breathlessness, sweating, loss of appetite, upset stomach, difficulty concentrating and racing thoughts. All or some of these can be an indication that stress is affecting your wellbeing.
Many things can bring on stress, such as relationships, money, work, exams, the expectations you put on yourself or the expectations you feel other place on you … the list goes on.
What to do
The first step towards tackling stress is to acknowledge to yourself that there is a problem. The next is to find the cause of the stress. The final step is to take actions to ease the stress.
If you can, talk to someone. Keeping the stressful thoughts in your mind can cause them to intensify, whereas if you are able to put words on these thoughts then they can begin to feel more manageable. If you don’t feel able to talk to someone, write out the stressful thoughts – putting them into words can help you to figure out what exactly is causing you to feel stressed.
Manage your own wellbeing. Being proactive and doing things that are good for your wellbeing can help manage feelings of stress. Good things to start with include: relaxing, exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, breathing exercises and avoiding too much alcohol or drugs. Even though these steps always seem very basic, if put into practice they make a big difference to stress levels.
Finally, find support. If you have tried the above tips and it isn’t enough, then consider a visit to your doctor or check out some of the links below. There are many websites with information on stress and how to best deal with it. Here are some Irish ones with good information and tips: www.mentalhealthireland.ie/a-to-z/stress, ie.reachout.com/inform-yourself/anxiety-panic-and-shyness/stress, www.irishheart.ie/your-health/ways-to-live-better/stress, and www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/s/stress.
Your local library stocks many books about stress and coping. Check out www.librariesireland.ie/healthy-ireland/healthy-ireland-book-list as a starting point.
Looking for a counsellor to talk to? Speak to your doctor for a referral or check out these websites to find a counsellor in your area: www.iacp.ie, iahip.org.
Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.