In this day and age, feeling stressed is something we’re all having to live with, but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to those feelings. We asked the experts how they cope…
Despite well-intentioned proclamations to turn your stress into excitement, it’s hard to reframe your frayed nerves from having read something bleak in the news as something positive.
Instead, it feels more constructive to try and learn about what makes you feel stressed and work to manage it, instead of giving in to it. Easier said than done, right?
To find out how to gain better control of our stress, we spoke to six experts and grilled them for their best tips. Here’s what they said…
1. Say no
“Spending time outdoors and focusing on the trees, greenery and foliage helps to shift our negative thinking and reconnects us to the present,” she says.
“It’s also a reminder that we are surrounded by a higher force that nourishes all beings.
“Connecting to the outdoors gives us an opportunity to pause and slow down.
“Saying no is a form of self-care. Setting boundaries is about making decisions that align with our needs and values – not about getting people to like or agree with your decisions.
“When we get caught up in our assumptions and projections, we start feeling anxious and stressed. We feel tense in our minds and bodies.
“In order to prioritise your wellbeing and reduce unnecessary stress, stop saying ‘yes’ to the things you want to say ‘no’ to, and stop feeling guilty for wanting to have the time to do the things you really want to do.
“Set boundaries with your technology. Stop looking at your phone while you’re lying in bed.
“Instead of focusing on what other people are doing, focus on setting the tone for the day ahead. Pour your energy in taking care of your needs and get a proper night’s sleep.”
2. Don’t plan for doomsday
According to psychologist Dr Courtney Raspin, it’s important to take ownership of your stress.
“My relationship with stress has certainly changed over the years,” she explains.
“When I was younger, I felt very much at the mercy of my anxious feelings. At times, these feelings could be a bit scary. But over the years, I have learned to better understand my mind and regulate my own stress response.
“So often, we don’t realise we are stressed out until we are completely overwhelmed and can’t cope. Learning to be mindful, noticing those early triggers and learning to recognise your own personal triggers, is key.
“Once I see that I am getting stressed out, I take a few deep breaths – this does wonders for regulating your nervous system and forces you to slow down – look at my thinking and ask myself, ‘Am I catastrophising here?’ ‘How likely is it that the worst-case scenario my mind is describing to me, will happen?’
“Usually, the likelihood of that ‘doomsday story’ coming true is low, so I tell myself what I tell my clients: ‘Is it really worth spending 95% of my time worrying about something that is only 5% likely to happen?’ No.
“I also stop to think about what is within my control and what is outside of my control. I can change what is in my control, but there is no use worrying about something I can’t change, so I try to just let that bit go.”
3. Get to know yourself
Scientist and writer Professor Beronda Montgomery has learned that stress is all down to the individual.
“Most important for me has been recognising my personal indications of feeling stressed and having a set of go-to actions to deal with it,” she says.
“Often when I start to feel tension in my shoulders, it’s a sign of holding in or responding to physical stress.
“One of my favourite responses is to go for a walk in the woods or by a lake.”
One way to understand and manage your own personal stress is to equip yourself with an advanced health smartwatch.
The Fitbit Sense is the world’s first smartwatch to use an Electrodermal Activity (EDA) sensor that measures tiny changes on your skin, which may indicate your body’s response to stress.
The EDA Scan app on Sense detects your body’s responses whilst you’re doing a mindfulness session, simply place your hand over the watch and get instant feedback. Typically you’ll see fewer EDA responses the calmer you are. By doing regular EDA sessions on your Sense and tracking your responses over time, you can build up a mindfulness practice and improve your mental wellbeing
You can also access mindfulness sessions with the likes of wellness expert Deepak Chopra within Fitbit Premium to create moments of calm when you notice you’re feeling stressed. Fitbit Sense comes with a 6-month Premium membership for all new users
Author and psychologist Kimberley Wilson finds that a solid way of managing stress is to get outside and immerse yourself in nature.
“My favourite way to engage with nature is to eat it!” she says.
“Foraging for wild garlic and elderflowers in the spring, blackberries, elderberries, sloes, damsons and rosehips in the autumn.
“Spending time outdoors, in natural light, modulates the stress systems in the brain, helping you to feel more relaxed.
“Foraged and wild foods help to support a diverse gut microbiome, which is crucial for overall brain health and wellbeing.
“If you are not confident, check out the Woodland Trust for tips on how to forage safely and sustainably.
“Alternatively, check out a local PYO farm, take a picnic and make a day of it with friends.”
5. Do your own thing
For Stylist’s Strong Women editor Meriam Ahari, it’s all about carving out time for yourself.
“Switching off from your daily responsibilities – such as work – and finding ‘me time’ is so important,” she explains.
“My best tip for dealing with stress is to find something that makes you happy, calms you or allows you to refocus your attention on something that you enjoy doing.
“For me, it’s shutting my laptop at the end of the day, putting on my leggings and sports bra and doing a workout. This is my one hour of ‘me time’ where I can feel strong, energised and most importantly, step away from my desk.
“I always end my training feeling more relaxed than when I started. I also love reading, so I leave the last hour of my day to lie in bed and tuck into a good book.
“It’s a great way to quiet my mind before bed, plus it’s a bit of an escape and allows me to refocus my attention on something that’s more interesting or entertaining.
“I also make it a habit to go out for a walk in the park during my lunch break to soak up some sun and be as close to nature as possible. Find out what brings you joy, and make time for it every day – whether it’s cooking a meal, playing with your dog or calling a friend.
“In my opinion, it doesn’t always have to be a mindful activity. Sometimes doing something seemingly mindless – like chopping up vegetables to make lunch – can be equally calming.”
6. Get green
Horticulturalist Poppy Okotcha is no stranger to connecting with nature and has finessed the art of using it to relieve stress.
“For me, working in the garden is the best medicine,” she says.
“The repetitive physical motion, focusing my mind on one single activity that fully consumes me, noticing the feelings of the plants, soil, seeds, the sounds and smells of life.
“A lovely practice is to find an old tree and really ponder on its age, how much it’s seen, the storms it has weathered and to feel small in comparison to its long, slow life, its timeline stretching out, disappearing into the future and history.
“Then find a small insect, maybe an ant, and wonder at how fast and short its life seems and how for this tiny being we humans seem like trees, our lives mindbogglingly lengthy.
“I find perspective shifting always grounds me into the context of life and reminds me that I’m part of the same thing the ants and trees are part of, nature. That’s comforting.”
The Fitbit Sense health smartwatch has tools for stress management to understand how your body responds to stress, to help you build an overall picture and help you to better monitor your health. Plus, as Fitbit Sense comes with a 6-month Premium membership for all new users, you can access advanced insights and personalised guidance including an exclusive wellness collection of content created by meditation expert Deepak Chopra.