Drinking and your mind

How to handle pressure in a positive way

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to get into the habit of using drinking as a crutch. But there are other ways to manage pressure, says Dr Jessamy Hibberd.

It’s normal to feel under pressure sometimes. It’s part of being human. But when pressure and stress get out of control, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, irritable and low.

While it can be easy to put off dealing with stress – avoiding thinking about things, shutting off at the end of the day with a glass of wine or scrolling through social media – the stresses don’t go away. It’s like putting them into a big sack; you might not see them so easily but you’re carrying them around with you wherever you go. The more you put in, the heavier your burden becomes.

Avoiding the problems only leaves you feeling worse in the long run. It’s much better to have a proactive approach to handling pressure in a positive way. You don’t always have a choice over what life throws at you, but you do have a choice over how you react to it. Rather than drinking to deal with stress, try some of these mood-altering techniques.

Embrace feel-good things

Your mood is directly linked to your activities. If you incorporate the things you enjoy or find relaxing, it’ll have a positive knock-on effect on your mood. One of the simplest ways to reduce pressure and lift your mood is to look at how you’re spending your time and make sure you’re doing more of the things that make you feel good and less of the things that make you feel bad.

Reflect on your difficulties

Reflection is a great way to understand yourself better, improve your mood, learn from your experiences and foster personal growth. This allows you to tackle problem areas and make the changes you wish, as well as helping you to recognize what’s going well and your part in it. This might seem counter-intuitive but examining difficult feelings is the best way to allow them to pass.

Getting into a new routine can be tricky. You might not feel good straight away or you might dislike the first type of exercise you try, but stick with it and experiment to find what works for you.

- Dr Jessamy Hibberd

Exercise regularly and get enough sleep

Both have amazing benefits for how you think and feel, physically and emotionally. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, stimulates the production of endorphins, increases energy levels and boosts body image and self-esteem. Getting into a new routine can be tricky. You might not feel good straight away or you might dislike the first type of exercise you try, but stick with it and experiment to find what works for you. Moving more will also help with sleep, which is essential for maintaining a functioning brain and body.

Enjoy the nature around you

Spending time outside in green spaces and by water is a brilliant way to reset. Research shows that being close to nature has significant and wide-ranging health benefits. The good news is that even two hours over a week will be enough for you to feel the positive effects of nature.

Stay connected with the people you care about

Relationships are key to our health and happiness, and warm and supportive relationships have long-term benefits for health and longevity. So if you’ve had a stressful day, pick up the phone or meet up with someone to download your day and gain the benefits.

Calm your body to calm your mind

Changing how you feel physically is another way to settle your mind. The mind and body are constantly sending messages to each other – they work together to look after you and keep you healthy. So you can use your body as a route to feeling calmer. Find a simple breathing exercise you enjoy and try to do it once a day.

Practice being grateful

People who are grateful are happier, healthier and more fulfilled. When we think about what we’re grateful for, we force our minds to focus on the good things we already have, rather than dwelling on what we don’t have or searching for something new. Tonight, before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened. Things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for – a relationship, a sunny day, a hug, work going well, a delicious meal, being outdoors, or even just a hot mug of tea.

Unplug from technology regularly

We’re becoming ever more connected through technology due to blurred lines between work, social life and home. Whenever you’re working, checking, updating or replying, you’re pulled straight into a world that’s not yours – other people’s lives, work, the news and all the pressure, comparisons and expectations that brings. When you’re in this mode, you’re ‘on’ and being constantly in this state is exhausting. Make sure you give yourself time without your phone. Put it in another room when relaxing and keep it out of your bedroom.