My favourite ways of coping with stress: a blog post for Mental Health Awareness Week

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We all have our own ways of coping when we get stressed and feel that we just can’t do whatever it is we are beating ourselves up about doing; ‘pass that exam’, ‘meet that deadline’, ‘tell someone something that we would rather not’ and many more.

For me, it is only recently that I have been able to acknowledge when I am becoming stressed and see it for what it is.  Now this may sound a simple thing to some but it means being aware of your thoughts and feelings and the triggers that lead to stress.  Only when I became aware of what was happening physically and emotionally could I take appropriate action.  

Those of you who know me know that I am a bit long in the tooth (!) and it has taken me a few years to sort myself out with regard to taking care of my own emotional health and wellbeing.  However, I think I have just about got it right now and ‘age’ does appear to give you that freedom of thought and speech that we yearn for when we are young.

So, in the hope that it won’t take you as long as it has me to work out how to manage your stress I would like to share my 10 favourite ways that I now cope with those scary thoughts and feelings. Hopefully you might find at least one of these strategies works for you too:

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  1. Walking, taking my dogs Rio and Brodie over the country park. Pets are a real stress buster and give back so much love and affection.
  2. Talking to my sister, sons or best friend who are great at calming me down and putting things into perspective.  (I must say that I do the same for them when they are feeling stressed!) Good relationships are a must in your life, so find that special person that you trust. You only need one great friend.
  3. Sleep. It’s a simple fact that if I don’t get enough sleep I am hopeless, I can’t concentrate and everything appears 100 times worse than it is.  Sleep helps you to repair yourself and I have often woken up with a solution to a problem.
  4. Eat Well. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on holiday in England with the typical diet of fish and chips when I have craved vegetables.  I have literally dragged my family into a restaurant and said “I need good food”.  My body is telling me that I am low in nutrients and I need to top up.
  5. Have some fun. This is a great stress buster and I don’t think any of us have enough fun.  Find something you enjoy doing and ‘Just Do It’ either on your own or with someone else. I love going to our local outdoor pool with my family and grandchildren, in particular.
  6. Read. I love my Kindle and read every night.  I seriously can’t drop off to sleep until I have read a few pages of my latest book.  It takes my mind of the day’s events and transports me into another world.
  7. Have a Holiday. Take time to spend time with your family.  I love the beach and holidays in the sun.  Strolling into a warm sea and feeling the sun on my skin – just fantastic.
  8. Tidy up. I have to talk myself into this one but it always makes me feel better once it is done.  This goes for the house, car, office and even handbag!
  9. Movie night. Just curl up on the sofa with your favourite sweeties/ice cream. I usually have one or both of the dogs on my lap wanting a cuddle too.
  10. Change. There have been times in my life when I have realised that there is too much stress.  I needed to take a look at why that was and then make some difficult decisions. I have never found that they were the wrong decisions, only decisions that have changed things for the better in my life.

There are many other positive ways to cope with stress, so get Googling if you're looking for more ideas, and don't forget to check out the resources on the HeadStart Support and Guidance site:

Stress and its impact on family relationships - a blog post for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

At HeadStart Wolverhampton we recognise that while stress is a normal part of life, it can also have a real impact on family life and in particular, on children. 

Steve Guy is the Vice Chair of Bilston East Steering Group, and is a qualified counsellor who specialises in bereavement. Steve has written the following blog on behalf of HeadStart. Thanks, Steve!

Nicola Holmes, HeadStart Community Development Coordinator, Bilston East.


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It used to be said, that in the future, our lives would be made easier by the technology we developed, and the free time associated with it. Looking at the world around us at the moment though, this destination doesn’t appear to have been reached. Instead, people seem more stressed than ever, and never more so than in the family. No matter how the family unit is constructed: traditional, single parent, fostered, they all share similarities in the stresses and strains they encounter. 

Let’s be honest: some stress can be good for you! A short burst of stress can motivate you to complete a task, act as a warning system and even, according to some experts, be a benefit to our health. Bad stress though is a different matter, a stress we really don’t want in our lives: raising our blood pressure, tiring us out, creating anxiety or depression, and impacting on our physical well-being. 

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For parents and carers, stress can rear its head from a variety of angles: wanting the best for our kids, dealing with the school run and work commitments, behaviour issues in both adults and children, dealing with young people in search of an identity. These issues are just the tip of a giant stress-causing iceberg! 

If these things cause stress then how does it impact on the family? In the first place, stress is great at making us believe we aren’t stressed, so we actually get more stressed until, like a shaken up bottle of pop, we explode. This can mean increased pressure with family members, frustration with situations and the people involved, and leave the potential of an argument always lurking in the wings. In the worst cases, stress can lead to the complete breakdown of family relationships with members not talking to each other and even leaving the home they are part of. 

Stress rarely gets better then until we acknowledge we’re stressed, and that in fact it’s normal to feel like this. If we don’t, stress can almost becomes contagious, and causes other issues with family members such as worry and anxiety. Over a period of time these issues can become the norm, which impacts on everyone’s mental and emotional well-being. 

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Stress caused by those closest to us, then, can be difficult to deal with, because it can make us feel guilty or angry towards them, especially if we feel they’ve been mean to us. This can prove difficult to tackle relatives about.

Likewise, it’s not easy when we’re the one who has caused a situation because of our stress, because we’re usually the last to see it and may not accept the blame, or see the effects of our stressful actions. This can easily lead to spiralling negative relationships between family members. 

So how can you deal with stress? After all, we know that family life has its pressures and upsets even at the best of times, but when stress moves into the family home like a permanent unwelcome guest the impact can be devastating on the way the family functions. 

Try to recognise your stress triggers and those of other family members, and accept that these might be why you, or they, are acting the way they are.

To begin with, try to recognise your stress triggers and if possible those of other family members, and accept that these might be why you, or they, are acting the way they are. Give people and yourself some space if stress is present. Likewise, set some boundaries within the family about those things which are causing stress. For example if you get stressed because you do all the work, share the tasks, but explain this to people in a suitable fashion. One of the biggest reasons for stress impacting on family relationships is people not communicating their frustrations. Parents, siblings and guardians presume that other family members know why they are upset but family members can't read minds!

Take some time out for you, from your day. We all control our time and what we do with it, so put aside five minutes for ‘you time’.

Remember that stress is also individual. What stresses you may not be the same as what affects other family members. To help yourself recognise when you’re stressed, think about how you feel when it starts. When and where in your body does it appear? It’s easier after all to deal with your stress when you first recognise it's happening, rather than when it is in full flow. Take some time out for you, from your day. We all control our time and what we do with it, so put aside five minutes for ‘you time’. Try using relaxed breathing exercises, spend some time in a quiet spot. Introduce a bit of self-care into your life – you’ll be surprised how it can impact on you and your family for the better. 

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Family life can be difficult, but we can make it a little less stressful by taking on board that stress is not a weakness, but a natural response to the pressures around us. Understanding the stress in our lives can help us cut down the impact that it has on our family relations.

A fine tip! Next time you feel stressed, take a deep breath and ask yourself these two questions:

  • What am I getting stressed about now?
  • Will it be important in a year’s time or not?

If the answer to the second question is 'No' then perhaps the situation isn’t worth getting stressed about after all ...


Huge thanks to Steve Guy for writing this blog post

HeadStart Wolverhampton is working in partnership with a number of programmes to help parents become more resilient. From local interventions across our four geographic areas to training courses and opportunities such as Parent Champions and Adult HEROs, HeadStart wants to spread the message to parents that it’s ok to not be ok and that parenting is tough! We want to listen to parents across the city and to find out how we can help to create more resilient families. We also want to bring parents together to talk, listen and share their stresses and worries about parenting – this kind of peer to peer support allows parents to talk to others in similar situations, and to share some pointers and solutions that have worked for them in the past.

Combined with our work with young people in schools and the community, we are coming at the issue of supporting families from both ends, and we strongly believe it's having an impact.

Tips For Taking Care of Yourself During Stressful Times: a blog post for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

If you are depressed you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present
— Lao Tzu

There are times in all our lives when life can seem to be a little hectic and therefore stress is inevitable! We are all bound to encounter negative life events, stressful times and situations that take us off track.

It is important to realise that stress is not always a terrible thing. For instance, it helps us to achieve our goals and protects us in life-threatening situations. However, when we carry stress for a prolonged amount of time without adequate coping strategies, it begins to affect our health, relationships, and all-around quality of life.

However, there are also proven ways to help train our minds and bodies to better handle stress and build resilience. If we have a few tools in our back pocket when stressful events arise, we're more likely to successfully overcome them.

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt to go through stressful times in my life is that however busy you are, it’s important for your mental health to take time out for yourself, relax and recharge the batteries!

Many people have no idea of how to take care of themselves, although they can be great at taking care of others. Practicing self-care during stressful times is the most important thing to help us feel better, function at our best, replenish our reserves, boost our energy and think clearly. 

The hectic or tough times in our lives are when we need to take care of ourselves the most. That’s when we need to move our bodies, get enough sleep, not skip meals, take a breather and engage in activities that nourish us.  

To take care of ourselves, a starting point may be to spend sometime trying to understand what sort of things help us feel nurtured, supported and cared for and it is important to remember that these are not necessary the same for everybody.

Here are some ideas on practicing self-care in stressful times whether you are: navigating studying for exams, a loved one’s illness or experiencing relationship problems etc.

Maintain Proper Nutrition – Food Can Affect Your Mood!

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There is a link between what we eat and how we feel. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can contribute to fatigue, mood swings, and poor concentration.  Eat regularly and make healthy choices.

Try these sites for brain food and further information:

Get Enough Sleep – Develop A Regular Sleep Pattern

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Sleep is very important for your emotional and physical wellbeing as it helps us to recover and recharge. Lack of sleep can negatively impact your ability to handle stress, concentrate and remember things. Furthermore, without adequate sleep you will have problems with your energy levels. Many sleep problems are temporary but if they continue it may be worth seeing your GP. It is recommended that young people should get about 9 to 10 hours a sleep and adults 8 hours sleep a day. 

Try these sites for useful tips on sleep and developing regular sleep patterns:

Exercise – Keep Active

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Exercise can be great for physical and mental health. Scientists have discovered that exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, which increase your feelings of overall wellbeing. There is also evidence to show that exercise can help raise self-esteem, help sleep problems, improve memory and concentration, takes your mind off negative thoughts, as well as reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.

Try these sites for more ideas and resources:

Improving your self-esteem – Have The Right Attitude

Self-esteem is how you think and feel about yourself. A person with low self-esteem tends to have negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. However, looking at things from an optimistic frame of mind can decrease your stress levels and bring you more success in life.

Try these sites for some for ways to boost your self-esteem:

Sharing what’s bothering you – Buddy Up

When your plate is full of emotions and feelings it is good to reach out and spend time with people who make you feel positive. Make a date for coffee with a friend or relative because talking about what’s bothering you can help to make it feel more manageable. It is important to develop supportive friendships and expand your social life so you’ll have someone to lean on when stressed. If you feel that the problems you’re having are too big for you to deal with by yourself you may want to get in contact with your GP, someone from school/college or someone else you trust.

If you’re finding it hard to talk to people you know about how you feel, contact

Taking time to relax – Wind Down

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Regular relaxation is beneficial for your mental health. If you make a regular time each day to practice some of the techniques below you will get better and better at relaxation and notice your day-to-day stress levels are lower. You will also become able to use relaxation at the times you need them most.

Try these relaxation techniques from Youthspace:

Also, this quick podcast from the Mental Health Foundation:

Another fantastic way to relax is to practice mindfulness. This is the focusing of attention and awareness on the here and now, and is often used to reduce anxiety, stress and depression. It has its roots in Buddhism, though is used widely by people of all ages from all unusual backgrounds with all sorts of problems.

These Mental Health Foundation podcasts might help you relax and improve your sense of wellbeing:


Come and join us for a free mindfulness workshop!

Why don’t you come and join us for a free Mindfulness session for young people aged 10 to 16 years, parents and carers?

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The event is being held at The Bob Jones Community Hub (Bromley St, WV2 3AS) on 16th May from 4:15pm to 5:15pm.

The workshop will be delivered by Adam Dacey, the founder of Mindspace.


Top Tip!

30-minute Rule. No matter how busy you are, take half-hour each day just for yourself to relax & recharge!

Remember: Love yourself first because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with!