Stress Awareness and your Winter Mental Health Plan

Remember back in the spring and summer when we made room for our one daily exercise? It was easy. We spent more time walking, being outside, enjoying the sun and despite the lockdown it had the power to make us feel relatively upbeat. Fast forward (if only!) to November and we face our second lockdown but this time the days are darker and the weather isn’t so great. It is no wonder that many of us are feeling the toll on our mental health and are showing the signs of stress. If this time dragging yourself out doesn’t feel so appealing, what can we do to reduce our stress and help our mental wellbeing?

It is somehow ironic that this Wednesday, 4 November it is National Stress Awareness Day. A week when many of us are feeling stressed by the impending lockdown and the ramifications. Stress can show in various ways both physically and mentally –

  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feeling fearful
  • Headaches
  • Sense of being overwhelmed
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle tension

Even if you hadn’t realised it, if you are suffering from any of these it could be down to stress. Think about what may be making you stressed?  It could be one thing or a multiple, layering effect of things in our personal and working life that are contributing to these feelings. As a coach we work to understand what are the triggers as this allows you to be really responsive in developing coping strategies. There are lifestyle and self-help techniques that you can take, it is about finding something that works for you and forming new habits like we did earlier in the year.

When we are stressed our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline, those chemicals that we often associate with ‘fight or flight mode’ and being anxious. We need to counterbalance these and it has been proven we are just as able to create dopamine, oxytocin, endorphin and serotonin which are chemicals that stabilise mood and increase sense of wellbeing. This list is by no means exhaustive but that are proven to increase these chemicals and thereby improve our coping strategies to stress:

Organising our time, tasks and achievements

  • Achieving small goals
  • Establishing boundaries to allow us to be in control of our work and time
  • Plan taking breaks into your day – micro breaks away from the screen and workplace
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your wins

Reach out and seek support

  • Draw on your networks, reach out for support
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good
  • Spend time with animals/pets, loved ones
  • Seeking professional support of coaching

Looking after yourself

  • Walking in nature
  • Watching a film, particularly a comedy
  • Getting active
  • Using relaxation and breathing techniques
  • Cooking

Think about what we wear and eat

  • Wearing clothes that make us feel good and confident
  • Eating food that makes us feel good (dark chocolate)

Just like earlier in the year, we need to establish a routine which involves lifestyle and self-help techniques – it is your ‘winter mental health plan’. We know that when we are exercising that our bodies need a rest day, so why wouldn’t we do this for our minds too. They can become so crammed full of analysis of the stressful situations that we find ourselves in that they too need a break and time to regenerate! Investing the time in reducing your levels of stress will help us to regain our clarity, productivity and sense of wellbeing.

What will you do? You’ve got through this before, you can do it again. You have proved that you can fit small lifestyle changes into your day to help your mental wellbeing during a pandemic, so what will you do this time during the Winter?

Nicola Hughes is a freelancer for over 14 years.  She provides consultancy in service development and improvement and is also a Confidence Coach.

As part of the Stress Awareness Day I am offering a free 30 minutes coaching session to up to 5 Freelance Fundamentals freelancers who make contact by 6 November. If you would welcome a chance to reflect and receive clarity without judgement, understand the root causes of your stress and receive help with coping strategies please get in touch – Nicola

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