A little bit of stress can be a great motivator, but in excess it is extremely bad for your health and can cause both physical and mental issues. While you would never want to remove stress from your life entirely, reducing it to appropriate levels and learning how to manage it well is a good idea.
Exercise helps build a healthy body which is more resilient to everyday stress as well as providing natural endorphins that improve your mood. You can start with simple things such as walking more or cycling to work, but many people find that choosing an organised activity helps them to commit to the process. Ensure that you have the decent gym wear and equipment for your chosen activity before you start, or your discomfort may add to your stress levels. Don’t be afraid to try something out before committing to a longer programme, though. Many places will hire equipment to you for taster sessions before you sign up for a longer period.
Getting involved in an exercise group or sporting association isn’t the only way to reduce stress by making connections. Any positive association with an organisation larger than the individual is closely associated with mental resilience. This is a useful tool for dealing appropriately with stress. You could join a club, society or group that is based on an activity you enjoy or want to learn. Alternatively, see if you can spare some time to volunteer for a cause you believe in. The interaction and social benefits will reduce stress from isolation or lack of purpose, and helping others raises endorphin levels.
Another way to feel connected is to make time to get outdoors. Spending time in the open air, particularly while walking, is a great way to reduce stress, especially if you do it on a regular basis. Even outdoor spaces in a city will help, although if you can access some countryside or coast you will feel the benefits even more quickly.
If lack of time is one of the reasons you feel stressed, organisational techniques may help. By planning your time and breaking tasks into time-bound chunks, you can make even the most daunting schedule manageable. This does require some willpower to stick to the schedule, though, and you should build leisure time into your plans to facilitate this.
Don’t feel that time to relax is wasted; it is essential for your health and performance levels. It should therefore be as much of a priority as the other things on your schedule. Similarly, though, don’t let your planned leisure time overrun into your scheduled work. The guilt and panic this is likely to produce if tasks are not completed because of it will only lead to more stress in the long run.
You should also make time to get enough sleep. Sufficient sleep is vital for handling stress well, and it is important to address any poor sleep habits early to minimise stress-related insomnia and prevent a vicious cycle from developing.