Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. From feeling under pressure at work, taking on too many responsibilities, to facing big changes in life. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or occupation. Stress isn’t just a mental experience. It can also lead to physical symptoms such as aches and pains, headaches and dizziness, muscle tension and exhaustion.
National Stress Awareness Month takes place annually in April, and while stress is unavoidable in day-to-day life, we can adopt everyday practices and techniques to help manage our stress levels and improve our overall quality of life.
John Bromley, a Public Health Consultant who is working with Abu Dhabi 360, the recently launched, emirate wide wellness programme by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, says, “Making small and sustainable changes can lead to better health outcomes and a better quality of life in the long-term. Whether its adding more steps to our daily routine, or practicing meditation to taking time to de-stress. These simple steps can have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing.”
With recent studies showing 39% of UAE residents are concerned about the impact of stress, and over 88% of the population are experiencing stress or anxiety, Abu Dhabi 360 has partnered with Mental Health UAE, an organisation focused on promoting mental health awareness in the UAE, and Abdulla AlBlooshi, Founder of Desert Shield Fitness Abu Dhabi, to provide simple steps on how to reduce stress and anxiety to support overall health.
With a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to get caught up in chaos and lose sight of the here and now. “Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on a person’s mental and physical health, leading to a range of problems, including depression, insomnia, and heart disease. It is essential to take steps to manage stress and anxiety before it becomes overwhelming,” said, Latifa Bin Haider, Co-Founder of Mental Health UAE.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on being present in the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve focus and concentration, and promote relaxation.
“Finding inconspicuous ways to practice mindfulness in the middle of a busy day can help you focus on and identify how you’re feeling and why. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and meditation. Taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath and clear your mind can help you feel more centred and grounded.” Latifa adds.
One way to manage stress and anxiety is through exercise. “Working out isn’t just about building strength or improving endurance; it’s also about cultivating a positive mindset and a sense of wellbeing,” says Abdulla AlBlooshi, founder of Desert Shield Fitness. “When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can boost our mood and reduce stress. These endorphins can help us feel more energised, focused, and optimistic, even after a challenging workout.”
Endorphins interact with receptors in the brain, reducing pain perception and triggering positive feelings in the body, known as a “runner’s high”. This feeling of Euphoria or well-being can last for several hours after exercising.
Between work, family, and social obligations, finding time to exercise can be a challenge. However, regular exercise is essential for reducing stress and anxiety. The Abu Dhabi 360 app offers a variety of fitness and wellness features, including workout videos and tutorials that can help users easily integrate physical activity into a busy schedule. Whether that is taking a quick walk during a lunch break or completing a quick workout in the morning.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is key too. Working long hours can make it difficult to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, prioritising sleep is essential for managing stress and anxiety. When you’re well-rested, you’re better equipped to handle the challenges of daily life.
“When we feel tired, we don’t cope well,” says Latifa Bin Haider. “Everything seems more difficult. Your patience is lower. Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep and be sure to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle.”
“Try to avoid any screen time at least an hour or so before you go to sleep. If you don’t feel asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music and then go back to bed when you feel tired. Repetition is key as you will eventually train body to maintain a good sleep schedule,’’ Latifa adds.
It’s understandable that life can get hectic and overwhelming at times, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. However, it’s important to recognise that such situations can further exacerbate stress and anxiety.
That’s why it’s crucial to make time for social connections and maintain a support system that can help you navigate challenging times. “Social support is a powerful buffer against stress and anxiety. Spending time with people who care about you can help you feel more connected and less isolated,” says Latifa.
By scheduling regular social activities with loved ones or exploring new opportunities to meet people with similar interests, you can not only reduce stress and anxiety but also enhance your overall well-being.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it might be time to take a break. Prioritising self-care through breaks can lead to improved well-being, reduced stress, and increased productivity, so taking breaks throughout the day to destress and recharge can do wonders for your mental and physical health.
“Taking time regularly to recharge is essential for our mental and physical well-being. So, be sure to schedule in some “me time” throughout the day. Whether it’s going for a walk, chatting with a co-worker, or practicing mindfulness. Find what works for you and stick to it. Remember, taking breaks can boost your productivity, reduce stress, and make you feel happier overall,” recommends Latifa.
Seek Professional Help
It can be tempting to try and manage stress and anxiety on your own. However, seeking help from a mental health professional can be a valuable resource for managing your mental health. They can provide you with the support and tools you need to navigate the stresses of a busy lifestyle and improve your overall well-being.
‘‘Stress and anxiety are common concerns that can affect anyone. Prioritising mental health through exercise, mindfulness, and a healthy diet can help manage stress and promote overall well-being. With the resources provided by the Abu Dhabi 360 app, including guided meditations, daily exercises, and expert guidance from industry professionals, individuals can take the necessary steps to help manage their stress levels and live a 360 healthy and balanced life,’’ says Dr. John Bromley.