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Stress is difficult to define or measure. Some people thrive on a busy lifestyle and can cope well with daily stresses. For some, a little pressure may even improve how they perform. Other people become tense or stressed by the slightest change in their daily routine. Most people fall somewhere in between but may have periods when levels of stress increase. 

The following is a list of suggestions that may be useful for stress management. Some will be more appropriate than others: 

WRITE A STRESS LIST Making a list to help manage stress. Keep a diary and list the times, places and people that aggravate your stress levels. A pattern may emerge. 

Once you have identified any typical or regular causes of stress, two things may then help to manage it: 

Discuss this with a close friend or family member, it may help them and you to be aware of the reasons you feel stressed. Simply talking it through may help. 

These situations can be used as cues to relax. You can use simple relaxation techniques when stressful situations occur or are anticipated. For example, try doing neck stretching exercises when you are in that traffic jam rather than getting tense and stressed. 

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES Deep breathing. Take a long, slow breath in and very slowly breath out. If you do this a few times and concentrate fully on breathing, you may find it quite relaxing. 

Muscular tensing and stretching. Try twisting your neck around each way as far as it is comfortable and then relax. Try fully tensing your shoulder and back muscles for several seconds and then relax completely. 

Try practising these simple techniques when you are relaxed; then use them routinely when you come across any stressful situation. 

PRACTISE POSITIVE RELAXATION Setting specific times aside to relax positively can help with stress management. Plan it and look forward to it. A long bath, a quiet stroll, sitting and just listening to a piece of music, etc. These times are not wasteful and you should not feel guilty about not ‘getting on with things’. They can be times of reflection and putting life back in perspective. 

A relaxation programme such as meditation, yoga, Pilates or muscular exercises are good techniques to help destress. 

TAKE A TIME OUT Allow several times a day to ‘stop’ and take some time out. For example, getting up 15-20 minutes earlier. You can use this time to think and plan the coming day. Take a regular and proper lunch break, preferably away from work. 

Once or twice a week, try to plan some time just to be alone and unobtainable. A gentle stroll or a sit in the park often helps to break out of life’s stressful hustle and bustle. 

EXERCISE AND MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet can reduce levels of stress. (It also keeps you fit and helps to prevent heart disease.) Any exercise is good but try to plan at least 30 minutes of exercise, on five days a week. A brisk walk is a good start if you are not used to exercise If you have difficulty in sleeping this may improve if you exercise regularly. 

DON’T USE SMOKING OR ALCOHOL Don’t be fooled that smoking and drinking can help with stress. In the long run, they don’t. Drinking alcohol to ‘calm nerves’ may lead to problem drinking. 

TAKE UP A HOBBY A hobby which has no deadlines and no pressures which can be picked up or left easily, takes the mind off stresses. For example: different types of sports, knitting, listening to or making music, arts and crafts – eg, model-making, puzzles and reading for pleasure. 

SEEK TREATMENT FOR STRESS See a doctor if stress or anxiety becomes worse. Anxiety management counselling or medication may be appropriate. 

Taken from the NHS Patient Access Portal.

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