From energy to council tax, prices are on the rise in many areas of our lives. But while it's no use pretending it isn't happening, plenty has already been written about it, so today we're sharing some coping mechanisms to help you deal with any stress you might be experiencing as a result, in conjunction with Stress Awareness Month.
Launched in 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been held every year since. Its aim is to increase awareness of both the causes and cures for stress and, with anxiety and depression levels rising as a result of ongoing price hikes and the impact of COVID-19, its arrival this year couldn't be more timely.
Worrying about money can cause you to lose sleep, impact your self-esteem and reduce your energy levels, all of which can leave you feeling scared, tense, ashamed or even angry. As a result, it can be easier to lose your temper with your friends and family, resulting in arguments, mood swings and, ultimately, depression and anxiety.
However, it is possible to stop your worries dominating your thoughts and negatively impacting your mental health. Here's what to do…
Very few things clear your mind better than the great outdoors, so if you're feeling stressed, it's time to head outside.
Research shows that going for a 90 minute walk gives your mental health a significant boost by reducing patterns of negative, repetitive thoughts. Walking in natural environments like forests, fields and parks has been linked to increases in positive emotions too, so, if possible, avoid the city and take a walk in the countryside.
Although the negative effects of Facebook and Twitter have been overexaggerated in some cases, turning to social media as a means of stress relief is not advised as it can actually increase your anxiety levels via fear of missing out (FOMO).
Defined as anxiety that exciting or interesting events are taking place elsewhere, FOMO can be easily triggered by social media sites populated with posts showing people having a great time without you. It may be easier said than done but limiting the amount of time you spend on Twitter each day or ensuring that you turn all your devices off at a certain time in the evening will stop you wasting time 'doom scrolling' and give your mental health a break.
Most people know that they should ideally get around eight hours sleep each night. However, when you're stressed or depressed, sleep is one of the first things to suffer and then a vicious cycle comes into play - you don't get enough sleep, so you feel tired and more irritable the following day, negatively impacting your mental health even more.
Fortunately, plenty of advice on getting a good night's sleep is available online these days, from watching your caffeine and alcohol intake, to exercising properly, avoiding electronic devices in bed, sticking to a regular bedtime routine and practising breathing exercises.
If you can't get outside, you can still get moving by doing some exercise at home - getting active has been proven to fight feelings of depression and anxiety by training the brain not to panic when it experiences rapid breathing and an elevated heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of fear and worry.
And, because any exercise is better than no exercise when it comes to improving your mental health, it doesn't matter what you choose to do. Whether it's aerobics, pilates, lifting weights, using an exercise bike or taking part in an online workout, anything that gets your blood pumping and your heart beating faster is perfect.
The benefits of meditation - increasing your ability to control your emotions, reducing blood pressure and stress levels, alleviating anxiety - have been well known for centuries.
One of its more recently discovered benefits is among the most effective, however. Thanks to the likes of YouTube and Zoom, it's now possible to learn the secrets of meditation from the comfort of your own home, making it more appealing to those with no previous experience who might otherwise be embarrassed to join a class.
There are a wealth of online tutorials and interactive classes available - many for free - so fire up your laptop and prepare to experience some serious inner calm.
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