Mounting domestic chores, work worries and family feuds mean that Sunday, traditionally seen as a day of rest, has now become one of the most stressful days of the week according to a third of British adults who admit that their schedules are now just as busy as an average working day.
Over 2000 British adults took part in the Sunday Stress Audit which was specially commissioned by TV channel Really who have recently started to schedule their programming to reflect how we feel on different days of the week.
The ‘14 Step Guide to Deal with Sunday Stress’ is from one of the UK’s leading stress experts Neil Shah. Neil is the founder and Director of the Stress Management Society a leading international authority on stress management and well-being issues. So here are his tips to take action now, and make sure the last day of your weekend is a harmonious, healthy one, rather than one that raises your blood pressure.
1) Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and refined sugar products
They are all stimulants, so therefore they cannot calm you down. If you’re stressed, steer clear of them and keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking water instead.
In particular there is a link between Sundays and increased alcohol consumption.
Alcohol dehydrates you and makes your liver work overtime to process it. Instead develop a healthy drink problem with water. This hydrates every part of the body and brain and helps you better cope with stressful situations.
2) Work off stress with physical activity
The mounting pressure of having too much to do and the working week being almost upon us again can cause a build-up in stress and pressure. Pressure or anger releases adrenaline in the body. Exercise helps to reduce it, and produces ‘good mood’ substances in the brain. So go for a brisk walk around the block when you feel tense, and try some regular exercise after work. Sundays could be a great opportunity to take the family to the park or for a walk in the country.
3) Relax with a stress reduction technique
Try visualisation – it’s very easy and can even be done anywhere. Just use your imagination to whisk you away to somewhere calm and peaceful – maybe an idyllic beach or a green and peaceful meadow. Your subconscious cannot differentiate between what is real and what is perceived. If you imagine something vividly enough you can trick your subconscious into believing you are actually experiencing it. Or think up a self-affirming mantra to repeat to yourself (eg ‘I deserve calm in my life’, or ‘I have a choice in every situation’). Repeat it to yourself whenever you feel tense.
4) Agree with somebody; once in a while!
Life shouldn’t be a constant battleground. So even if you disagree with someone, avoid conflict by just agreeing or keeping quiet. After all, they have a right to their opinion, just as you do. As we spend more time with family on a Sunday that may leave to disagreements or arguments. Particularly in households where there are differences in sporting opinions.
5) Learn to accept what you cannot change
A well-known prayer asks for the serenity “to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. This philosophy will help you avoid unhappiness, cynicism and bitterness. As your weekend starts to wane your stress may increase at the thought of the all things that you didn’t have time to accomplish – instead of letting that get to you focus on what you were able to accomplish and want you can leave till next week.
6) Listen to your body
When you are tired, hungry or thirsty, do something about it. Also recognise stress and anger in your day and counter it immediately with a brisk walk, ten minutes’ in deep relaxation or whatever works for you.
7) Learn how to say ‘no’
Simple, but effective. Where a ‘no’ is the appropriate response, say it without guilt.
Write out your list of things to do, then strike through the tasks that are neither urgent nor essential. Look at what’s left and see what you could delegate, eg give someone responsibility for buying the groceries, hovering etc. Your ‘to do’ list will instantly shrink.
9) Create a calming atmosphere
When relaxing at home, play some relaxing music, and put lavender aromatherapy oil in a burner to help calm excitable children and stressed adults.
10) Let’s talk turkey
If you do plan to cook a roast, turkey or pheasant are good choices. They contain tryptophan from which we make the calming brain chemical serotonin. But if cooking stresses you out, book for Sunday lunch at a local pub or restaurant and let someone else take the strain. Not only does this cut out menu planning, and food preparation, but it also means you don’t have to do the washing up. If it’s a nice country pub you could combine it with a walk in nature.
11) Serve decaf
When your body is under stress it produces cortisol which prepares you for fight or flight situations. This is not only unhealthy long-term, it also leaves you feeling wound tight as a spring. But it’s not just stress that produces cortisol. Caffeine does too. So don’t artificially add to your stressful feelings. Serve decaf coffee and tea instead or opt for herbal alternatives.
12) Try internal aerobics
Stress makes your heart beat faster and your breathing shallow. Reverse that process with deep breathing. Breathe in for four counts through your nose, hold for 16 counts, then breathe out for eight through your mouth.
13) Think of 10-minute escape plans
Just a few minutes away from a stressful situation is enough time to regroup. So think of suitable escape plans – from popping out to the garden to feed the birds, to going over to say hi to the neighbours. If you find yourself getting stressed, use one of these excuses to remove yourself from the situation and practice some deep breathing until you are feeling back on track.
14) Go for a walk
Exercise is an immediate tonic for stress. It burns off stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and helps produce mood-enhancing endorphins. Take everyone out for a walk or a bike ride after lunch and let them work off their own stress.