Seven ways to manage stress and anxiety

Life has the ability to put a spanner in the works at any time, so it’s normal that you and your clients could feel stressed from time to time.

As a clinical nurse consultant, I see many people who suffer from stress and anxiety. Here are my seven tips to help you and your clients combat feelings of stress and anxiety:

1. Talk to someone

  • Call a friend or family member just to talk. Sometimes just reaching out to someone helps brighten the day and stops that feeling of being alone.
  • Getting things off your chest is healthy, whether you need a shoulder to cry on or just chat about the weather.
  • Ask for help if you feel distressed or at risk and you can’t reach a friend or family member. You can get help through your GP practice, NHS 111 or community-based services like Mind, Sane or the Samaritans. Just reach out — there will always be someone there.

2. Be kind to yourself 

  • Recognise that it’s ok not to be ok all the time.
  • Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals if you’re feeling stressed or anxious — it will only add to the pressure that you may be feeling.
  • Monitor your use of coping mechanisms like alcohol and smoking, as they can quickly escalate to unhealthy levels.

3. Breathe

  • Specific breathing techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety at a physiological level by slowing your heart rate and helping you feel calmer. Breath in slowly through your nose and feel your belly expand. Hold your breath for 3-4 seconds, then exhale through your mouth slowly for a count of 6 to 7, making a gentle blowing sound as you do so. The crucial element is to focus on your exhale breath as it sends signals to your body to calm down. Focusing on your breath also helps you stay in the moment as you think only about what you’re doing right now rather than being distracted by past or future events.
  • Mindfulness and Yoga techniques utilise the breath as a positive tool for mind and body awareness. 
  • Try searching for breathing techniques on reputable professional sites to find ones that work for you.

4. Switch off for a while

  • Take a break from social media — it can become overwhelming with constant interruptions.
  • Limit your exposure to the news so it doesn’t fuel your stress and anxiety. We all need to be aware of what is happening but without constant minute by minute updates that can be upsetting and alarming.
  • Allow yourself to relax and do something you enjoy.

5. Be kind to yourself

  • Do some exercise that gets you outside at least once a day.
  • Start or return to a hobby that gives you pleasure.
  • Connect with nature to give you a different perspective on what’s important in the world.
  • Get involved with community work to help others even if it’s as simple as providing used clothes or other needs to local charities. Helping others has a positive impact on feeling good.

6. Laughter is good medicine

  • Laughter is good medicine as it releases endorphins which are natural chemicals into your body which can lift your mood.
  • Laugh often or call someone and share an amusing story, relive happy memories, or just be silly. Laughter is joy for the soul. 

 7. Life will again feel normal

  • Remember nothing lasts forever, no matter how bad things seem. 
  • Exercise regularly and learn to sleep better to help you cope with everyday life.
  • Reach out for help when you need it.

Hopefully, these tips and hints will help you take charge of your wellbeing and look after yourself, your colleagues and your clients.

Heather Buckeridge, a qualified mental health and general nurse in the UK and a previous registered nurse in the USA. Alongside her nursing qualifications, she has a BSc in Health Promotion, a MA in Healthcare Law and Ethics, and a MSc in Mindfulness. Heather has worked for Aviva UK Health since 2000 and is currently involved in employer-employee education by supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace.