My (alternative) stress-busting tips

National stress awareness day meant social media was awash with gorgeous infographics and insightful advice about managing our wellbeing and dealing with the pressures we face.

In the main, information was excellent and I love that we can talk about stress so openly. In some parts though, I felt frustrated that the advice focused on the more genteel side of things (‘light a candle, ‘try to be more positive’, ‘luxuriate in a hot bath’).

Well, lighting a Diptyque candle causes me huge anxiety because they’re so damn expensive – I may as well set fire to a wad of bank notes. I try to be to positive most the time which, frankly, is exhausting and lolling in the tub makes me fidgety. And hot.

Sometimes I deal with stress by letting my inner child out. Or getting cross. Or immersing myself in nonsense on the internet. I want you to know it’s OK and giving yourself permission to do it can be the biggest relief of all.

Here are my tips, discounting obvious stuff like a good night’s kip and exercise.

Rant. Sometimes getting it off your chest is the only way to relax. What I will say here is just be careful where you do this – going batshit crazy about how life is unfair or how so-and-so is a total loser when you’re in Sainsbury’s or a work meeting is not appropriate and may be offensive. Do it somewhere safe and somewhere that affords you privacy. Your words may be childish, disproportionate or completely unreasonable. That’s fine. Just remember you do not need to act on this meltdown: recognise you’re clearing your internal space and getting perspective back.

Here’s an example. I felt hugely stressed this week and went running to clear my head. It begin with furious fist-shaking at the sea which, in my mind, had scuppered my plan to run along the coastal wall. ‘Bloody tides! Now I’ve got to run where I can’t see or hear the sea as much. Bloody tides ruining my life. Tides are crap.’

Completely unreasonable, right? But I needed to surrender and release the feeling. By the end of my ranty-run I was smiling. It was an epic, dramatic tide, a thing of natural beauty. I can’t control the movements of the briny deep but I could have looked at the tide times before I set out (I didn’t). I ran (great stress relief), I raged (ditto) and felt great afterwards.

Listen to Rage. Listening to soothing music and practising mindfulness meditation tops lists of ways to reduce stress. That’s great but it doesn’t work for me and it may not for you. When I am stressed Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name or Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song are on heavy rotation. I sing loudly and badly. Both trigger great memories for me (we played Rage on our wedding day). Revel in the music that works for you and play it until you’re beaming widely. Turn the frown upside down, people!

Eat guilt-free. Often, cooking a nutritionally balanced meal is advocated as a way to deal with stress and generally I abide by it as it’s darn good advice. But it’s fine to eat whatever the hell you want, nutritionally poor or not. (Of course, if you’re on doctors’ orders not to overindulge then maybe skip this). Disregard the Instagram post from the celebrity personal trainer/chef hustling their new DVD/book, put aside the salmon and edamame bean stir-fry idea and order the damn pizza and ice cream just this once. Solemnly (salmonly? – sorry!) promise to exercise a little harder tomorrow and follow up your good work with that self-righteous fish stir-fry.

Connect. Disengaging from technology can be beneficial but why when there’s so much joy to be found online? Scrolling through the Twitter feed of Victoria Secrets latest runway show leaves me cold but a video of the baby bear scrabbling up a snowy hillside ignites a warm glow. There are many wonderful websites and communities to connect with whether it’s Facetiming family, Skyping a mate, yapping to others in Twitter chat hours, watching your fav music videos on YouTube or reading about a subject that interests you. Deplete your device’s battery on what charges you up, not what wears you out.

Do nothing (for now). An ex-boyfriend once said to me: ‘if in doubt, do nothing’. Even though we didn’t last his words did. Essentially he was saying decisions made in a fog of uncertainty, usually as a result of stress, may not be the right ones. Refraining from action when you are unsure about something will minimise regret and keep you safer. It is better, he advised, to wait until the feelings have passed and your emotional resilience is stronger because you’re more likely to make clearer, more logical decisions. Hold off committing to anything. Sleep on it. Speak to someone trustworthy and impartial to help clarify your thinking.

Remember: 74% of people have experienced stress. You are not alone. Help is available. And the odd pizza or rant is fine!

What ways help you deal with stress? I’d love to know! E x

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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