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National Mental Health Week 14th - 20th May

Thursday, 10 May 2018
Here are some tips and techniques for dealing with stress, in support of Mental Health Week, and our Charity of the Year, Dudley Mind:
 

Become aware of your stressors and reactions
 
    Do you know what makes you stressed? 
 
 
Knowing what makes you feel the effects of stress (feeling stressed) is the first step to dealing with your stress.  It might sound strange, but often, people are not aware of the people or situations that make them feel stressed.  Learning to recognise how you feel when you are with certain people or in specific situations can help you to identify your main stressors (the things that make you feel stressed).

Firstly, pay attention to how your body feels when you are stressed and when you are relaxed.  Ask yourself these questions:
 
  • Are your muscles tense or relaxed?
One of the most common physical symptoms of stress is muscle tension – usually in the shoulders and upper back. 
  • Is your breathing deep or shallow?
Rapid, shallow breathing is a sure sign that you are feeling stressed and your body is preparing for “fight or flight”.
  • Are you holding your hands open or curled into fists?
Clenched muscles in the fists, and in some people the jaw, are another physical manifestation of stress.  Clenched fists is also another way of the body preparing itself for “fight or flight”.

Then you can move onto other situations or people that may be stressors.  Ask yourself the same questions.

Of course, it is possible that your physical reactions are different to those above, in which case, try to reframe the questions to match your physical reactions: 
  • Are my teeth clenched or am I smiling?
  • Have I been suffering from more headaches than usual?
This exercise will help you to identify the people or situations that cause you to feel stressed.  Allow yourself time to acknowledge these feelings and the situation(s) that caused them.  By allowing time to acknowledge how you feel about a person or situation can help you to find ways of dealing better or more effectively with the effects, even if you cannot change the person or situation.

Knowing the sources of your stress will help you to find ways to reduce the stress or find ways of dealing with the feelings.  Things that cause you to feel stressed are called stressors.

Decide what you can do about your stressors:
 
       •   Can you avoid the stressor(s)?
For example, could you leave at a different time to avoid the traffic?  Could you take a different route?  Is there another means of transport that you could use?
•  Can you work to resolve conflicts with others?
Could you work on resolutions that involve forgiveness, compassion or acceptance and set aside time to talk the issues through calmly and rationally, perhaps even away from the situation?
 
    •  Can you prepare in advance for stressful situations?
Is it possible to anticipate where or when you may encounter stressors and better prepare yourself in advance?
 
     • Can you practice self-compassion?
Do you, or can you set realistic goals for yourself, let go of any perfectionist traits or other unrealistic expectations that you or others have of you?
 
    •  Can you choose to view change (or anything else that is causing you stress) as a positive challenge, rather than a threat?
 
Having identified your main stressor, can you change your mindset to see this stressor as something positive to work towards overcoming, rather than a threat to your achievement?
 
And to keep you focused on the positive:
 
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