• Doug Drinkwater

How to manage stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety holding you back? Here's some simple tips to overcoming the fear.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine

Alcohol, smoking and caffeine can be used as a crutch in difficult times. But, as academics say, this is not a clever long-term strategy.

"It’s like putting your head in the sand," says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. "It might provide temporary relief, but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress."


Get out of the office, or your home, and exercise. Burn off some of the emotions you're feeling. It won't make stress disappear, but you'll feel better for it and it will give you an opportunity to subconsciously mull over your problems

Get some sleep

Anxiety can cause sleeping problems, with research suggesting sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder.

And yet, at the same time, getting extra sleep can help with your anxiety, or depression. Researchers believe that getting people to go to sleep at the same time each night, and waking at the same time each day, as well as calm down and rest in the period before sleep, can help enormously.

Try relaxation techniques

Mindfulness is huge right now and it is here in many forms, from coloring books to short ten-minute meditations. This is just one of various relaxation techniques you can use to unwind, take stock and cool down.

Talk to someone…

Whether this is a friend, family member of healthcare professional, talking to someone can help share the load. In fact, sharing this information can sometimes help you find the root cause of your anxiety - and give you solutions as how to improve the situation.

Keep a diary

This may seem a little less conventional, but diarising your stress and anxiety in a diary can be helpful for a number of reasons. It can help you effectively find the 'trigger' points for such incidents (for example, if it is worse on a Sunday night, maybe your anxiety is linked to the impending working week?).

Furthermore, jotting down your thoughts on a regular basis can help you find the root cause of your issue - and help you identify effective ways to fix it.

Take control

There’s a solution to any problem. "If you remain passive, thinking, 'I can’t do anything about my problem', your stress will get worse," says Professor Cooper.

"That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing."

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

Manage your time

Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy.

"We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise," says Professor Cooper.

She recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality "me time" away from work. "By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime," he says.

Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.

"By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person," says Professor Cooper. "It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time."

Help other people

Professor Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.

"Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective," says Professor Cooper. "The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel."

If you don't have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.

Work smarter

Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference. "Leave the least important tasks to last," says Cooper. "Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day."

Accept the things you can't change

Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

"If your company is going under and is making redundancies, for example, there’s nothing you can do about it," says Professor Cooper.

"In a situation like that, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job."