Stress has inevitably become part of our everyday life and it's all too easy to get bogged down with the emotional pressures and strains of day-to-day living. But there are steps you can take to prevent it from building up in the first place. Leading life and happiness coach Carole Ann Rice says:
'Everybody is stressed and everyone's problems are different. Of course the obvious ones to stress relief are exercise, sleeping and eating well but for some reason people aren't doing these things. Therein lies the issues – as everybody knows what can help stress, like switching off, watching a film, reading a book – but why don't they do it?'
Carole Ann believes there are small, easy changes we can all make to improve our wellbeing:
1. Be prepared to say 'no'
To get more time for yourself and to put your own needs first, it's important to be able to say 'no'. And of the genders, the worst culprits to saying yes to everything are women, who are more likely to be people pleasers, says Carole Anne.
'Start to think about what you can actually say 'no' to and be what I call 'responsibly selfish'. What I mean by this is pushing yourself and your needs first so that you'll be able to do what you want to do with a life that's balanced. This way you will have more time and energy for family and friends.'
So say you can't go on that trip that you weren't even that bothered about or pass on that invitation to a party. By doing this you'll prioritise time for yourself and once you have the confidence to say to yourself: 'actually, my needs are important', you won't feel that you're being pulled here there and everywhere. Other people do respect this and it shows that you have boundaries in your life, advises Carole Ann.
'Once you start to say 'no' more often, you'll find that you have a bit more time and then you can start to say yes to things like yoga on a Thursday - which you should look at as 'non-negotiable me time'.'
2. Diarise the week ahead
In order to do things like have an exercise routine, eat well or just have time for relaxation, you have to plan ahead for it. If something is in the diary no one else can take that time away from you.
'When I ran the half marathon, I found that if you don't plan your runs during the week, your fitness falls away. So I had to put in my diary when I was going to have time to train in order to be on track with my programme and be fit enough to do this run. And it's the same with your life. Look at the weeks ahead and think: 'have I got time off? Have I factored in my exercise? Have I made a date to see an old friend (even if it's 3 weeks from now), do I need to have some time off?' You have to be the one that steers this. You can't be the passenger here, you have to be the pilot.'
3. Stock up your fridge with healthy food
To make sure you are eating healthily have things in the house that are convenient but which are fresh, like nice salads, spinach, fresh pasta, fruit and veg, rather than picking up a pizza or getting a takeaway, says Carole Ann.
'Having an organic food box delivered or doing an online shop is really useful so you've got a fridge full of healthy produce to look forward to when you get home from work.'
4. Practice self-care
Carole Ann gets her clients to practise 'radical self-care' when they're in the realms of being overwhelmed or burnt out. This can be something as simple as going to bed at the right times (not so easy for some).
'People work such long hours now– I think that one in 10 of us are working a 60 hour week in the UK, and come home very late. And come 10pm you think you haven't had a eve yet and you go on Netflix or YouTube and watch a movie till 2am in the morning and then up at 7am. This is what causes stress, you aren't being sensible.'
5. Unplug from technology
Literally step away from your PC, laptop, phone or television and stop texting, whatsapping, snapchatting and go for a walk or sit in a cafe and enjoy the normal sounds of people talking or birds singing, advises Carole Ann.
'Try to resist, because technology is quite stressful – texting and looking on FB can be a bit of a wind up. Have a nice bath, a milky drink and read something. People are now using their bed as a casino, supermarket, bank and social forum, and you're just not switching off at all.'
6. Stay away from the news
If you're really stressed, don't feel guilty about not watch the news or reading the headlines if it's going to make you feel more anxious.
'Choose to listen to happy music – we can talk ourselves into a bad mood and bad news can make us unhappy. So don't pick up the paper in the morning and don't look at the news headlines. Try an app called happy track, which does one happy song a day.'
7. Relaxation is key
Prioritise relaxation as running on empty serves no one, especially you. Carole Ann suggests spending a bit of time in solitude, although it's not something everyone likes to do.
'Even having an hour in the house on your own can be a way of recuperating. I call it creative pottering. Just gently tidy with the radio on in the background, it can be a great way to take time out and unwind.'
Meditation can also help you to relax. Carole suggests Headspace app and says that even if you've never mediated before, you can do this sitting on a bus, tube, train with headphones on, and slightly lower eyes and listen.
'You are giving yourself a nice tonic there.'