I was standing backstage at a conference, waiting to go and speak to my first big crowd of people and oh. my. gosh. I was petrified.

I could hear my heart thumping in my head, I was shaking with fear, my breathing was erratic and I just felt so nervous and stressed out. It was like my mind was racing at 100 miles an hour and I had no control. The 10 minutes I spoke for were a blur, I walked off stage and was violently sick.

Stress is a word that we hear a lot, but what is it? What’s actually happening in our bodies to make us feel so… stressed out?

The NHS says this:

‘Stress is how the body reacts to external pressures that we perceive to be difficult or uncomfortable. It causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties. You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response.

‘Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.’

Sometimes we can’t run from stressful situations like exams, family and friendship breakdowns, or illness. So how, then, can we mange this stress and prevent it from taking over and controlling us?

10 ways to deal with stress:

1. Talk
Try to identify the cause of your stress and talk to someone you trust about it. This can feel quite nerve-wracking but when something’s really bothering you it’s good to share it and ask others to help us. Feeling stressed can be a very lonely experience, please don’t battle through feelings and situations alone.

2. Relax
How do you find it best to relax? Here are some ideas – go for a walk, play with the dog, have a bath, read a book, take a nap, listen to some calming music, stretch, write a diary. Make time in your day to rest, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

3. Change your scenery
It can be so easy to rush through life without stopping to notice or appreciate much. Get out and see something new, walk a different route, put your phone away in your pocket and take in the world around you. Paying more attention to your thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you can improve your mental wellbeing.

4. Go to sleep
Sleep is incredibly important, not just for your mind but for your whole body. Aim to get around 8 hours of sleep each night, and try not to be on your phone just before bed. Lots of studies have shown that the light given off by our phones affects our sleep. The blue light that it emits can slow down the production of a hormone called melatonin, which tells our brain that it’s time for bed.

5. Forgive
If you tripped and cut your knee it would be important to clean your wound and remove any dirt to prevent infection. Forgiveness is like a cleansing, wiping away the dirt and preparing ourselves to heal. When we forgive it’s not saying ‘I agree with what you’ve done’ and it’s not pretending we’re not hurt. It’s letting the bitterness go and about saying ‘I choose to stop picking at this wound you’ve given me, because I want to heal.’ Perhaps it’s yourself that you need to forgive.

6. Breathe
Here comes the science bit – ‘Taking deep breaths increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness’ (AIS). Aren’t our bodies clever? Click here for an example of a breathing exercise from the NHS.

7. Move
Ok, more science, but stick with me! Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, it also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension (Harvard).

8. Laugh
Laughing in the face of stress might feel like an odd suggestion, and perhaps you don’t feel like laughing but apparently it can be hugely beneficial! Studies have found that laughter lowers the levels of cortisol in our body which means lower stress levels! Hurray! You know what they say? Laughter is the best medicine.

9. Pray
God cares about the things you’re facing and He wants you to share it with Him.
Jesus said this Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
If you’re not sure about prayer, my friends have made a great video about it:

10. See your GP
If you’ve tried the suggestions noted above but none of them seem to work then your doctor will be able to give you more help and guidance on dealing with stress.

I really hope that these 10 points are helpful, for more information on stress, MIND and have some great advice.

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