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5 ways to manage stress for those experiencing, or at risk of homelessness

18 January 2019

Eoin Ryan

Eoin Ryan, Head of Health, Wellbeing & Practice Development at Simon Community NI, suggests 5 ways to help you manage stress. 

Having somewhere to live that is safe, stable and affordable is something that most of us take for granted and see as a basic need. This sense of stability helps to maintain our health and well-being. However, for those who lack this stability the consequences can contribute to the development of mental health problems or they can make existing mental health problems worse.

‘Stress’ is a word that is over-used these days and is often used in the context of things that are mildly disconcerting or slightly uncomfortable. Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help you take action, feel more energised and get results. However, for those experiencing financial problems, relationship breakdown, poor health, coping with traumatic events, as well as having nowhere to live or being at risk of losing their home, it is easy to understand how you could become consumed by stress. This is the reality for many people who experience homelessness as there is rarely just one cause, it is often the accumulation of a number of factors.

When someone is attempting to deal with all of these factors at once it has the potential to cause a mental health crisis as it is overwhelming, so I would like to suggest some tips for managing stress and preventing it reaching crisis point.

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1. What can I control and what is out of my control

Although there will probably be lots of things in your life that you can't do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could to resolve or improve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. It's not easy but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can't do anything about will help you focus your time and energy on those you can. This is a task that is often most effectively done with another person. This can be a friend, family member or a professional. They can help you reflect on what is and isn’t within your power to change and draw up a list a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance and try to focus on the most urgent first.

2. Identify triggers

Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help. Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress (again this could be done with a friend, family member or professional).

3. Organise your time

Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time could help you feel more in control of any tasks you're facing, and more able to handle pressure. Identify your best time of day, and do the important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time. For example, you might be a morning person or an evening person.

4. Vary your activities.

 Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly. Try not to do too much at once. If you take on too much, you might find it harder to do any individual task well. This can make you feel like you have even more pressure on you.

5. Take breaks and take things slowly.

It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed, but it can make you more productive.

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If you, or someone you know is in distress or despair, contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service with trained counsellors who will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To find a mental health organisation specialising in self-harm and suicide click here