Self Help and Prevention
Being able to identify what leads to stress is an important step in preventing it. This will enable you to take steps to avoid stressors and will help you to recognise when you are becoming stressed again. There are several ways that stress can be prevented and how you can help yourself. You may find some of the methods that are outlined below useful, in addition to these tips:
- Work out what situations make you feel stressed and how you behave in those situations. See if there is a way of managing those pressures so that you can face them in a different way.
- Make a list of all the things that make life stressful and a list of things that would help make life less stressful. This can help you sort out how you feel about certain situations.
- If you feel that problems keep on building up and are making you more stressed, tell someone about it.
- Medical support from your GP: your own doctor will offer an opportunity to investigate, diagnose and treat any clinical problems
Quick Links to Tips
Counselling involves talking to someone about a range of issues, such as what causes you to feel stressed. A counsellor will encourage you to discuss your feelings, and they can help you to find solutions to your problems. They can also help you to discover ways to deal with stress and its effects.
All University staff have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This is a confidential workplace service provided by the University to help staff members deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems, and other wider concerns. It is available to staff members and their families and aims to have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
For further information on the range of services offered please click here.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) describes a number of therapies that are designed to solve problems. CBT starts with the idea that your problems are often created by you. It is not the situation itself that is making you unhappy, but how you think about it and react to it.
CBT aims to change the way that you think about a situation, as well as influencing your behaviour.
The University has it's own Centre for Mindfulness based in Brigantia and offers many courses. The aim of their programme is to learn new ways to handle challenging physical sensations, feelings, moods or social interactions.
In the meantime why not try a Mindfulness track in your lunch break or at home to see how relaxed you feel.
If you feel yourself getting stressed, try to halt those feelings by relaxing your muscles and taking deep breaths. Start by breathing in for three seconds before breathing out for a little longer. This will remove the older oxygen from your lungs and replace it with fresh oxygen improving your circulation and alertness.
Continue these deep breathing exercises until you feel calmer and ready to continue what you were doing. It might be better to do something else rather than continue with the stressful task.
Food and drink can have a big impact on the way you feel and act. It is therefore important to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Some people find that stress causes them to snack on sugary, unhealthy foods, such as crisps and biscuits. This gives your body a sugar rush followed by a sharp drop in your sugar and energy levels. This can make you feel tired or irritable, as well as making it harder for you to concentrate.
Eating at regular times and not skipping meals can make a big difference. This will allow your body to release a steady stream of energy throughout the day which will improve your concentration and mood.
A balanced diet consists of food from the five main food groups:
- protein (from food like meat, fish, cheese, tofu, and eggs)
- carbohydrates (from bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes)
- dairy (from cheese, milk, and yoghurts)
- fruit and vegetables (aim for at least five portions a day)
- fats and sugars (from nuts, avacados and sweet food)
Try to reduce the amount of caffeine (found in coffee, tea and cola) and alcohol that you drink. These can have a similar effect on your body as stress and anxiety.
If you drink alcohol, do not exceed the maximum recommended current daily guidelines for both men and women that you should drink no more than 14 units over the course of three days or more. This is the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine over the course of a week. It is also best not to "save up units" and drink them all in one go and to make sure you have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.
Drinking more than the recommended amount can have a negative effect on your health.
Drinking too much caffeine can leave you feeling anxious, irritable, and restless. Try to drink more caffeine-free varieties, or opt for squash or water instead. Drink 6-8 glasses (1.2litres) of fluids a day.
Exercise has numerous benefits and is known to:
- release a chemical called serotonin, which makes you feel happier, and less stressed
- improve circulation and prevents conditions, such as stroke and heart attack
- allow you to take out your frustration and anger in a constructive way
You should aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week. The exercise should increase your heart rate and leave you slightly out of breath. Examples of these type of activities include:
If you decide to take up running, take it slowly to begin with, and build up gradually over several months. Make sure that your footwear is suitable for your running style. If you are unsure about this, the staff at your local running store will be able to advise you.
If you have not exercised in the past, or if you have been inactive for a long time, visit your GP for a health check-up before starting an exercise programme.
It is common for your sleep pattern to be disturbed when you are feeling stressed. If you are worried about something it can often be on your mind even when you try to forget about it. This may cause sleepless nights, or bad dreams.
You may find it difficult to get to sleep, or you may wake up a few times during the night (insomnia). If you feel tired the next day, it can make you feel even more stressed.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, contact your GP. They will be able to discuss your sleep pattern with you and any potential causes of stress. Your GP may:
- prescribe medication to help you sleep
- recommend cognitive and behavioural treatments to change any unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that are contributing to your insomnia
Contrary to popular belief, smoking does not help to combat stress. In fact, it can make stress worse as well as causing damage to your body.
Giving up smoking is not easy and, in the short term, may lead to you feeling more stressed, or annoyed. However, irritability and craving is a sign that your body is trying to repair itself.
If you would like more information, or advice, about quitting smoking, you can call the NHS Smokers Helpline Wales on 0800 169 0 169.
When you are stressed, your muscles often tense, which can cause muscular aches to develop later on. If you feel yourself getting stressed, shrug your shoulders a few times and shake out your arms and legs. This will help to loosen your muscles.
Some people find that imagining a peaceful place, such as a desert island, or a tranquil lake, can help them relax. Imagine yourself being there and the scenery around you. Diverting your mind to a calming environment will help to distract you from the stress and relax your body.
You can also relieve tension by having some time to yourself. Spend some time doing whatever you enjoy, such as:
- having a warm bath
- reading your favourite book
- doing some gardening