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Dr Uwakwe-mangse Hanna (MBBS, MRCS)

Last week I wrote about stress and promised to tackle stress busters this week.

If you’re stressed, whether by your job or by something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause.


 The most unhelpful thing you can do is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking or drinking.

“In life, there’s always a solution to a problem,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Not taking control of the situation and doing nothing will only make your problems worse.”

According to the professor  the keys to good stress management are building emotional strength, being in control of your situation, having a good social network and adopting a positive outlook.

The 10 stress busters I will discuss now are based on The professor’s suggestions.

  • BE ACTIVE

Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.

  • TAKE CONTROL

There’s a solution to any problem. “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse,” says Professor Cooper. “That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.”

The act of taking control in itself gives you power or propels you to be in charge of the situation and that forms a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

  • CONNECT WITH PEOPLE

A stressful period is never s time of isolation. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

“If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper.

The activities we do with friends help us relax. The jokes we crack with friends and the laugh we do have together is a big relief from stress.

“Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems,” says Professor Cooper.

  • HAVE A “ME” TIME

This is very important in relieving stress. We all need a personal time to unwind. A time dedicated to oneself, a time to be positively selfish.

Professor Cooper recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. “By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime,” he says.

  • CHALLENGE YOURSELF

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.

“By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person,” says Professor Cooper. “It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.”

Do something new no matter how small the task may be.

  • DROP UNHEALTHY HABITS

Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. “Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour,” says Professor Cooper. “Women are better at seeking support from their social circle.”

Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. “It’s like putting your head in the sand,” says Professor Cooper. “It might provide temporary relief, but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.”

  • HELP OTHERS

Professor Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient and tough.

“Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cooper. “The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.”

If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road etc…… It doesn’t have to be a major thing.

  • WORK SMARTER AND NOT HARDER

 Learn to prioritise your work and learn to focus on the things that matter, things that will make real difference or create real changes.

“Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Cooper. “Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”

  • BE POSITIVE

 Look out for what is good around and within you and be grateful for all you have.

“People don’t always appreciate what they have,” says Professor Cooper. “Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty,” he says.

Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day instead of focusing on the things you couldn’t achieve.

  • ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CAN’T CHANGE

 Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

“If your company is going under and is making redundancies, for example, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Professor Cooper.

“In a situation like that, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.”

In conclusion I always have this motto in life. AS LONG AS THERE IS LIFE, THERE IS HOPE. You don’t have to win al the time, sometimes you retreat to fight another day.

Cheer up and don’t be stressed up. See you next week.




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