Keeping stress under control

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but when it gets out of balance we might feel overwhelmed and need some support in managing it.

We can expect to have some stress in our lives. Believe it or not, we actually need some stress to keep us motivated, alert, and to support us to do or give our best! If we view stress as manageable and feel able to cope with it, then that’s a sign we’ve got it pretty sorted! If, however, it feels like the scale is tipping toward too much stress and we feel overwhelmed, then this is a sign it’s time to find some ways to support ourselves and feel more ‘in control’ of the stress.

How can we manage stress?

Finding out what’s going on underneath our feelings of being stressed can help us work toward easing it. It can be uncomfortable to face hard things, but sometimes we need to address the root cause of the problem in order to regain a sense of control. 

There are lots of different things that can cause us stress including (but not limited to):

  • our workload and responsibilities
  • parenting and whānau responsibilities, worry or conflict
  • financial worry
  • health concerns
  • political and environmental issues (such as local flooding, COVID-19).

Sometimes just seeing a list like this can cause us to feel stressed! But it’s important when feeling overwhelmed to spend a bit of time reflecting on what is contributing to this, and what things we can do that will genuinely help. 

While we may avoid the doctor’s visit because we fear bad news, the information they provide may actually reduce our stress or provide practical information that supports us to cope and manage better. 

The same may be for any financial worries. We may avoid creating a budget or going to see the bank because we fear the outcome, but these actions are also steps towards us feeling more in control.

Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to too many things and end up carrying more than our fair share of tasks and responsibilities within our household. It might be helpful to do a stocktake of your current workload and look at where you are feeling extra pressure. Holding a whānau hui could be a good way to let others know you have too much on your plate. This could be a good opportunity to ask for help and share tasks around. 

Focusing on what we can control, rather than what we can’t, is a key strategy in managing our stress.

Simple ways to care for our oranga

We know that it’s easier to manage our stress when we have positive wellbeing.

Wellbeing is often defined as feeling good and functioning well.

This gives a really clear guide to use when questioning whether we have positive wellbeing – Do I feel okay? And can I show up and do the things I’m responsible for? If the answer is yes, then that’s great! But it won’t always be yes and that’s when we need some simple strategies to give our wellbeing a boost.

The 5 ways to wellbeing

There are 5 simple ways we can care for our wellbeing, which in turn supports us to manage stress. A large research study, carried out by The New Economics Foundation, asked thousands of people, including some in Aotearoa, what things we can do to support our wellbeing. The findings showed that those with the highest levels of wellbeing were doing these 5 things, a little and often:

Me whakawhanaunga (connect with others)

This might be with our whānau, friends, colleagues and community. Feeling connected to others supports our sense of belonging, support and oranga.

Me kori tonu (be active)

Finding the active things we can do that we enjoy supports us to feel good. This might be heading outside for a walk, bike, playing sport, dancing, yoga – there are many ways we can be active.

Me aro tonu (take notice)

This is one of the best ways to nurture our oranga, to be present in the moment. We can ‘take notice’ by spending time outside, savouring fun or relaxing moments, practising mindfulness and paying attention to what’s around you.

Me ako tonu (keep learning)

This is about remaining curious and enjoying finding out new things. Galleries, museums, hobbies, books, kōrero, training days are all ways we can keep learning.

Tukua (give)

This supports us as social beings, as we are meant to be part of whānau, iwi and community. It means that we feel good when we are kind and do things for others.

The 5 ways to wellbeing are so simple and don’t require any money, equipment, memberships or much time! Many times these things are fun or relaxing, which is key. 

How do I like to...

...connect with others? active? present and notice what’s around me?
...learn new things? kindness?

Don't forget the basics

Three more simple things that support our wellbeing and help us manage stress are eating good kai and getting the rest and sleep we need. They sometimes seem so simple that we forget to pay attention to them!

Sometimes these things feel harder, but are worth considering to see if we can make some small changes to better support how we’re feeling. The idea is that we feel good enough about the kai we eat and rest we’re getting. We won’t get it right all the time – we will have good days, and other days – but it all comes down to balance.