An upside to stress

Stress is a necessary physical response that can alert us of potential danger or help us handle life’s challenges. However, when our ability to cope pales in comparison to the elevated levels of strain, it is time to explore the many ways we can manage our stress parameters.


Coping with the pressures of life can mean applying various strategies depending on our stressors. By learning to understand stress, identifying the causes and cultivating measures to cope, we can vastly improve our wellbeing.

Here are ten tips that can help mitigate the load and are beneficial to our health:


Regular exercise can relieve tension, decrease anxiety as well as promote sleep. The ‘fight or flight’ precursors to stress are ideal for physical action. Exercising reduces the production of hormones associated with stress and can even combat the adverse effects to our health. Taking a 20-minute walk will boost our energy levels, clear the mind and ratchet up those feel-good endorphins.


Meditation and yoga sessions have been found to help find the balance when the pressures seem to lay hold of us. Deep breathing coupled with reflection can have a calming effect on our whole system paving the path to greater relaxation. The beauty of this strategy is that we can meditate anywhere and at anytime, even for as little as 10-minutes, to soften the unease of the day.

Healthy Lifestyle

We all get tempted at some point to reach for the bag of chips or that caramel doughnut when have so much to do. Whilst this is fine occasionally, we should strive to nourish our bodies with a healthy and balanced diet on the whole with a moderate consumption of alcohol. Sticking with a diet that’s rich in whole grains as well as fresh fruits and vegetables will keep our energy and mood levels on an even keel.

Take Regular Breaks

With the busy lives we lead, it is imperative to balance the strain with time out. From extended annual holidays, a lunch break with no mention of work, to using weekends to relax or going on mental-health days. We can implement this ethos on a daily basis at work by engaging in “walking” meetings or using break times to exercise and move outside our office or working environment to decompress. We need to make time for ourselves and to engage in activities that we enjoy every day.

Revel in Structure and Routine

When we build the foundations of structure and routine in our work and personal life, all seems to fall into place. Being proactive in anticipating the possibilities of a situation will allow us to plan ahead will dilute any stressors. This level of planning, for the good as well as the unfavourable, will transform pressure into a positive medium for personal development.

Spend Time with Family and Friends

The adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is one we should consider to abide by. Surrounding ourselves with family and friends is uplifting, energising and can lead to a more positive perspective on what we may think is a dire situation. Those who care for us can often proffer solutions that we may not have thought of. Discussing feelings and resolving any conflict will lead to healthier relationships and greater inner peace.
A Little Treat of Chocolate

It has been shown that the packed antioxidant flavonoid levels in dark chocolate encourage blood vessels to relax, permeating a calming effect. The key here is moderation, choose a small piece of dark chocolate rather than a block equivalent to the size of a 2kg  encyclopedia.

Take up Gardening

Research has fortified the benefits of surrounding ourselves with plants and flowers which can elicit a positive, tranquil mood. If tending to a garden and plunging hands into the earth is not our forte, we can purchase some indoor greenery and adorn workspaces with the same result.
Furry colleagues

The human-animal bond has been shown to decrease stress levels and improve blood pressure. In parts of Asia they have already adopted the “puppy-pick-me-up” by taking pets to work. Employees were seen to be relaxed, more productive and less time was taken off due to illness.

Seek Help

It is only when we lose control of stress and it lasts for a long period that we need to take the pertinent steps to navigate through it. The good news is that there are many support groups, counselling and coaching sessions available to impact our stress levels in a constructive way. We can improve the ability to cope with the symptoms and enhance our overall health by seeking help. It is best to speak to our GP or health professional for further advice.
We all have pressures punctuating our lives at different times, but we can manage them to our advantage and look at them positively. Once we learn to identify our triggers, we can impact the effects with numerous strategies. Whichever avenue we choose, we can learn to embrace life’s faux pas to better ourselves, our relationships and our wellbeing.

Source: This is an edited extract from ‘An upside to stress’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit