The question that most of us struggle with is how we can free ourselves from stress, especially now that the exams are over and we are supposed to relax and take some time off. Here Michael Mantzios, a lecturer in Health Psychology at Birmingham City University, shares tips and techniques to stop you naval-gazing.
Stress isn’t always bad; stress contributes to increased blood pressure and heart rate, it makes you more vulnerable and diminishes your resources to cope and solve problems.
Overall, stress contributes to a worse quality of life and wellbeing. But there is an advantage to stress as well, and it relates to the idea of being resilient to stress. When you are resilient, stress can work for you as it is under your control and you can benefit from it – as athletes do when they reach optimal performance.
Resilience: To become more resilient, you only need to do very simple things like:
- Be more socially interactive, but make sure that’s not only through social media.
- Be more optimistic
- Take care of yourself, both body and mind (exercise, eat healthily, laugh and smile)
- Remain open to new experiences.All these basic attitudes and behaviours will make you more resilient to stress, and will make you control stress instead of stress controlling you. Openness to new experiences may be more helpful than everything else mentioned because it gives you the flexibility to explore healthy avenues to reduce your stress.
Mindfulness: One technique to reduce your stress is a psychological (and now mainstream) practice that is called mindfulness.Mindfulness is all about changing the way you think, by simply redirecting your attention in a way that acknowledges that stress exists and is a creation of your own mind.
Consider thoughts and phrases like “exams stress me out” or “I stress over the results”. While these examples might be true, how much you pay attention to it – and how much emphasis you give to it – is what will define your levels of stress. In other words, constant thoughts of what stresses you create even more stress.
How to beat stress with mindfulness: Mindfulness is described as focussing on the present moment and having a non-judgmental attitude. It’s all about redirecting your attention. For example, if you think “I did badly on this exam” you are in a way judging yourself, and you are dwelling over something that already happened and belongs to the past. This will indeed be a source of stress. Our minds do this all the time – they wander away to the past and the future. These are the times when you need to be in the present moment and recognize when your mind drifts. Judging yourself is counter-productive and will cause you more stress, simply because there is no way to act on what happened in the past, apart from pondering over what went wrong. Instead, try to be kind and accepting.
Get more advice with exam stress and other options through Clearing: www.bcu.ac.uk/clearing
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