Top 10 ideas for those who feel they are struggling to cope with pressure
Times are hard and solicitors are at the forefront of the recession. In a profession not renowned for low stress levels to begin with, added concerns about job security and financial stability could mean a lot of even more stressed law bunnies.
How to keep stress at bay? A spa break may seem appealing, but can also cost a fortune, in the region of £60 an hour for a bit of back rubbing. So, what other less expensive techniques are out there, to keep mind, body and spirit Zen-like?
Sorry, but it’s true. Everyone knows how much better they feel after a walk, run or swim. The scientific reason is that exercise improves blood flow to your brain, bringing additional sugars and oxygen that may be needed when you are thinking intensely. It also causes the release of endorphins into your bloodstream. These chemicals are known as “happy chemicals”, as they positively affect your overall sense of wellbeing. A legal high, available to all!
Before you write it off as the preserve of hippies and the Beatles, did you know that regular meditation can help to ease stress levels in the body significantly? Statistics show that the stress levels in certain people during meditation are significantly lower than those of a similar group who are simply resting or relaxing. Interestingly, meditation centres in the UK have reported a steady increase in customers since the onset of the recession.
3. Go hug a tree!
The simple act of walking in the park or sitting by a river can have huge health benefits – recent research has linked exposure to natural environments with improved mental and physical health. Famed Harvard ecologist E O Wilson calls this connection to the natural world “biophilia”, i.e. humans have an innate kinship with other living things.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
Lack of quality sleep has a huge impact on one’s day-to-day living. Experts suggest an “electronic sundown”. This means that about 10pm you turn off all electronic devices in your home (including your mobile phone, which should be charged in another room). Then try to make your bedroom as dark as you can. Apparently even a fraction of light can stop your melatonin levels from rising; you need these to induce sleep and achieve the deep restorative sleep your body needs to function well. Try an eye mask if you can’t achieve total darkness.
5. Be a social butterfly
After a hard day at work, sometimes the thought of socialising can be unappealing. However, humans are inherently social beings. Enjoying other people’s company and maintaining a sense of connectedness to others is an important component of stress reduction, as it takes you out of your own self for a few hours and lets you leave the problems of the office behind.
6. Learn a new hobby or skill
It’s too easy to get into a weekly rut: gym on two nights and ironing/ Location, Location, Location on the rest. Get out and flex your creative muscles: from Italian classes to flower arranging, there’s something there for everyone and expanding your horizons in this way leads to a sense of self achievement.
7. Feng shui your stress
A desk overflowing with scraps of paper and old files is not going to help lower your stress levels. Organising your desk will help you prioritise your work and be sure there are no horrors lurking…
8. Don’t be a yes man
Learn to say “no” occasionally, when someone asks for some of your time. It’s too easy to be a people pleaser, and before you know it, you will have no time to yourself. It’s important to have a time during the week where no demands are being made of you, and you’re simply enjoying doing something you like – whether it’s reading the Sunday papers or having a long bath.
9. Share your problems
Bottling up emotions is not good for mental or physical health. Talk to a friend or family member you trust, or perhaps write your feelings down. When you see your problem in black and white, it can help put things into perspective.
10. Get some sun
Not always easy in Scotland, but sunlight is your body’s most important source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to enhance muscle strength, bolsters the immune system and provides a key nutrient for healthy bones. Even 20 minutes of sunlight a day can make a big difference, so instead of hunching over your computer at lunchtime, go for a walk around the block!
Sue Lennox is the pen name of a practising solicitor See also Six of the Best, p61p