The top 6 coping strategies for stress management

Published on October 7th 2022.
Written by Jenna Farmer.

Whether it’s worrying about meeting a deadline or dwelling over one of those ‘should I have said that?’ moments, many of us find ourselves trying to tackle stress management on a regular basis. In fact, a huge 84% of Americans report that they feel stressed every single week.

It doesn’t have to be big, life-altering events to make you feel stressed on a permanent basis. 32% of us say money actually causes us to worry the most, whilst workplace problems are top of the list of stressors for over 10% of us. 

Whilst it might reassure you to know that stress is pretty common it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best to do something about it as long-term elevated stress hormones aren’t ideal. “Ongoing chronic stress can impact our body-for example, over time you may not digest your food well or find your menstrual cycle becomes erratic.” says Nutritional Therapist Anna Mapson. Whilst it’s unrealistic to say we’ll never get stressed again, teaching your body the best ways to manage stress is beneficial. We chat to the experts to bring you the best science-backed coping strategies for stress.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

1. Listening to music can help tackle stress 🎷

Whether you prefer to unwind to Beethoven or dance around your living room to Britney, turns out music is a great tool for managing stress. Research has found listening to music impacts the body’s psychological stress system whilst another study found it can actually impact your heart rate and even your levels of cortisol (that super important stress hormone). Curating a playlist of feel-good tracks could be ideal for situations you know you’re likely to be stressed: such as on your morning commute or in the doctor’s waiting room.

“If you’d like to create a playlist to help you feel relaxed, first start with music that meets you at your current feeling state-so if you’re agitated, play music that’s fast paced and maybe a little higher pitched. Then choose tracks that will gradually move away from that feeling state-so slower tempos, quieter music with softer instrumentals or vocals.” advises Music Therapist Marianne Rizkallah.


2. Schedule downtime in your day to cope with stress 📆

We might schedule in a zoom call or a gym class but do you actually schedule downtime into your day? Most of us don’t but it’s so important. 

“I normally recommend a patient gets adequate downtime and relaxation away from their stressors, regardless of whether that’s work, parenting, or caring duties. I recommend people do a combination of low energy cost (napping, Netflix, colouring in or playing games on your phone) and higher energy cost activities (such as socialising, learning a new skill or being creative by playing an instrument). Being boundaried about what you will and will not take on is also really important so that you don’t get overloaded, such as not taking on too many projects at work or not answering emails after work.”  says GP Dr Claire Ashley.

With more of us working from home or adopting a hybrid working routine, it’s even more important to separate your life and work. “Closing the stress cycle is very helpful too, so that’s a ritualised activity that you do at the end of your working day to signal to your body that the stress is over and that you can relax.  Some people enjoy doing some physical activity but it could be having a shower and a cup of coffee when you get in from work, or – for some – lying down and tensing all your muscles and then letting go is enough. “ adds Dr Claire Ashley.


3. Brain dump to tackle stress ✍️

Ever find yourself feeling stressed and can’t quite pinpoint why? Sometimes we know the specific trigger and it has a deadline to be resolved (e.g. we’re worried about a meeting with our boss tomorrow or the outcome of a hospital appointment next week) but other times stress just lingers and we’re not quite sure why we feel so panicky. 

This is when writing it down can really help. “Our brains simply can’t cope with holding onto every single thing at once so brain dumping is a fantastic tool whenever you feel stress creeping in. Simply write down everything in your head-from your to-do list to your feelings and emotions. Once it’s out of your head and on paper, it becomes much easier to sort through and gain control back!” says Bex Spiller, founder of the Anti-Burnout Club  

If you don’t feel up to writing, there are still a few things you can do to help: you might jot down notes on your phone, record it as a voice note or take notes in the Bearable app.


4. Take a nap when you’re feeling stressed 😴

Yes, really. Providing it’s okay to do so (napping at your desk in an open-plan office is not a great idea), naps are pretty great at banishing stress. Not only do they give you a much-needed energy boost in the afternoon (since stress in itself can be pretty draining) but they can actually help tackle panic too. The good news is that you don’t need to nap for hours for it to help – one study of nurses who took two fifteen-minute naps a day were less stressed – and concluded that napping was an effective remedy to reduce stress. Sign us up!


5. Curl up with a good book 📗

When we’re stressed, we often reach to digital devices to help calm us down. How often have you found yourself mindless scrolling on TikTok or, even worse, frantically googling to try and calm yourself down? Switching off and reading a book instead may be beneficial for your stress levels: it has been found to reduce your stress levels by up to 68% and it helped banish stress more quickly than other activities like drinking a cuppa or going for a walk. According to the study, it only takes around six minutes until the effects of reading a book start to kick in-with your heart rate slowing down and tension in your muscle easing.


6. Tuck into protein-rich meals to help manage your stress levels 🧆

Protein-rich meals aren’t just for those working out, they can also help with the stress response. “When we’re in times of stress we often crave sugary carbohydrates which give you energy, since your body is looking for a quick release of glucose to boost the fight or flight response. Eating protein will slowly release energy and help keep you fuelled for longer,” explains Anna Mapson.  Studies have also shown that high-protein meals prevent our stress hormone cortisol from rising. Examples of high-protein foods are eggs, lean meats and dairy products.

It’s important to note that whilst these stress-busting tips are useful, if stress is getting on top of you, you may need some support from your GP, who may refer you for talking therapy or talk to you about medication options.

“It’s normal to go through periods of your life when you might feel stressed/overwhelmed, but if it starts to consistently affect people’s mood or their function then I would recommend speaking to their GP” advises Dr Claire Ashley.

Note. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.  Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

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