If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress or difficult emotions such as anger and sadness, talk to someone you trust. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE – It is important for children to be able to recognise their own signs of stress, and be willing to learn and practise coping strategies to better manage both physical and mental stress, says Ms Candace Chan, clinical counsellor at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s department of psychological medicine.

“Some stress is good because it motivates us to want to do better, but too much stress can backfire to hold us back from doing what we need to do,” she adds.

Experts share five ways to effectively manage negative emotions such as sadness and anger, as well as stress.

1. Cultivate healthy lifestyle habits

Dr Annabelle Chow, principal clinical psychologist at Annabelle Psychology, says exercising regularly can help reduce stress, improve mood and increase self-esteem.

It is also important to have seven to nine hours of sleep every night as it allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert to take on the day when you wake up, she advises.

Maintaining a healthy diet and drinking sufficient water throughout the day also supports overall physical and emotional health.

2. Use healthy coping strategies

If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress or difficult emotions such as anger and sadness, talk to someone you trust, suggests Ms Chan.

Alternatively, Dr Chow advises practising relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then relaxing your muscles, one by one. This helps to release physical tension, which may ease stress and anxiety.

3. Be kind to yourself

Practising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness can help to ease stress and emotions such as sadness and anger. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Instead of being critical towards yourself by asking yourself questions such as “why can’t I do it”or “why am I so stupid”, practise being kind to yourself, suggests Ms Chan.

Instead of demeaning thoughts, think “it’s okay to try again” and “I will figure things out”.

4. Pay attention to your body’s cues

If you are practising healthy lifestyle habits and have no major health issues, a headache could be your body’s way of telling you that you need a break from certain stressors, says Ms Chan.

“For example, during exam periods, it is not uncommon that students will feel the need to push through a headache and continue their revisions due to the worry that there is so much to revise and not enough time,” she adds.

However, ignoring your body’s cues could aggravate the symptoms and set you back on your revision.

5. Pace yourself

On good days when you are able to do more, do more. On days when your body sends you signals about your stress level, slow down and attend to what your body needs first, advises Ms Chan.

For instance, she recommends setting a study schedule leading up to the exam periods, so as not to be overwhelmed by having too much to revise at the last minute.

Pacing yourself can also come in the form of taking a break from revision to take a walk outside, engaging in your hobbies, or doing some relaxation exercises to bring the stress down to a manageable level.

Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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