Rachel, Wellbeing Practitioner from our Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Service, talks about stress and strategies you can use for reducing stress…
Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure. That pressure can arise from external factors including life events, living conditions, work, study, home and family, or from internal factors such as self-criticism and the demands we place on ourselves. Some stress is good for you. When we feel stressed, our adrenaline increases and this helps to motivate us to do well. Stress can help us feel focused, energetic and alert! However, too much stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed and can detrimentally affect your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
Recognise the effects of stress and how you may feel
Thoughts – Negative self-critical thoughts, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, difficulty ‘turning off’, frequent forgetfulness, increased sensitivity to criticism.
Emotions – Anxiety, tension, panic attacks, sadness, lowered self-esteem, apathy and fatigue, guilt and shame, loneliness.
Physical – Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, butterflies in the stomach, Muscle contraction (aches, pains), hot and cold spells (blushing, sweating), nausea – feeling sick, numbness and tingling sensations, difficulty swallowing/dry mouth, frequent urination, fatigue.
Behaviour – Difficulty sleeping, emotional outbursts, irritation/anger/aggression, excessive eating/loss of appetite, excessive drinking and smoking, accident proneness/trembling, difficulty relaxing, avoidance of particular situations, inactivity, restlessness.
What you can do to help reduce your stress
Learn to identify your own optimal level of stress – recognise your triggers and learn to de-stress daily.
• Access social support, even when you feel that you haven’t got the time – it is important to keep a balance in your life with your studies and social life.
• Keep communicating – share how you feel.
• Keep areas and times for relaxation.
• Regular exercise – exercise relieves tension and uses up adrenalin- half an hour three times a week has been shown to improve mood and our overall sense of wellbeing.
- Walk to Wellbeing – Wellbeing walks take place every Wednesday at 2pm for approximately an hour until the end of May. If you want to join in, please head to the Students’ Union steps just before 2pm on a Wednesday to meet Sabrina who runs the walks.
• Reduce demands on yourself – think twice about how important tasks are. Have realistic expectations about yourself and accept your limitations.
• Try saying ‘No’ – being assertive increases our confidence and we feel more in control of the demands and expectations on ourselves.
• Cut down on caffeine – Caffeine contains stimulants that can heighten the physical effects of tension, such as headaches and stomach problems.
• Break your goals into manageable proportions – try keeping to-do lists of smaller tasks that are realistic and achievable.
• Think positively about your abilities – Think of how far you have come and have confidence in moving forward.
Try relaxing your breathing to overcome feelings of breathlessness and manage anxiety
Some people find that their breathing becomes difficult when they are feeling anxious. Breathing techniques can help to overcome feelings of breathlessness and manage anxiety. Here is a strategy which may be useful when your breathing becomes difficult:
• If you are starting to feel anxious and you are beginning to have worrying thoughts, start by breathing out and empty your lungs as much as you can.
• Breathing through your nose automatically slows your breathing down and helps to avoid hyperventilating.
• Breathe into your abdomen by putting one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you breathe in and out through your nose, the hand on your stomach should move, while the one on your chest should keep as still as possible.
• By breathing into your abdomen, your diaphragm is stretched and you relax the muscles that become tight that make it seem like it is difficult to breathe.
*Please note that this blog only outlines a small number of strategies for managing stress.
Contact us at Counselling Health & Wellbeing for further support
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service, we can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire, in which our friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgemental support in a safe and confidential space. We also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service Monday–Friday 3 – 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings 9.30 – 10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in services at Student Support Centre in the Heath on Wednesday afternoons 3 – 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options.
Related blog posts: Dealing with Exam Anxieties
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Rachel, Wellbeing Practitioner
Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team
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