Stress-proofing yourself

February 2017 Vol. 15 (1)

Annette Milligan, a nurse entrepreneur who has run stress management courses and seminars for 27 years, shares some of her top stress-proofing tips.

annette mulliganPhysical fitness

  • It’s easier to manage stress when you’re physically fit. The news gets better – exercise is an impressive treatment for mild–moderate depression.
  • Exercise and stretch throughout the day. 
  • Huffing/puffing exercise will help you to generate endorphins, which lift mood. 


  • Smile – when you smile your brain automatically produces endorphins – so smile. When you lift your face into the smile position, your brain thinks you’re happy and so produced endorphins.
  • Laugh – laughter produces even more endorphins so laugh on the way home about one funny thing of the day. 
  • Surround yourself with positive imprints – draw a smiley face to make you smile. 
  • Play funny games, jokes, read cartoons and books, watch videos.

Separate home from work

  • Leave unfinished work at work. 
  • Leave work while you still have energy – otherwise you will grind yourself to a standstill. 
  • Never work in bed – the bedroom should be a place of fun and relaxation. 
  • Have a shower and change your clothes when you get home from work – it will help to separate you from work. 
  • If work is crowding your thoughts when you want to get rest, get your mind absorbed into something else – a good book, movie, conversation, or try juggling.
  • Technology is our servant, not our master. Use your phone to best advantage – try shifting the email icon off your home page. That way you can access emails if you want to, but you don’t see an envelope icon with rising numbers in a red circle every time you turn on your phone.

Make life easier on yourself

  • There are some terrific apps which help us to organise our lives. Try them out, and swap ideas for the most useful ones.
  • Carry things in a backpack or trolley rather than loading yourself with a heavy bag. 
  • Wear comfortable clothes – buy the right size (especially shoes and trousers) and wear low heels.

Boost your stress immune system

Change your perception of what is happening around you by changing the words you use to describe events.
Feel the difference between saying “I’m depressed” and “I’m feeling a bit down” or between “I’m stressed” and “I’m challenged”.

In a difficult situation tell yourself “that’s interesting” and notice the difference.
Physical touch boosts our immune system, so have a massage or stroke the cat.

Develop support networks

Take time out to nurture your relationships – go for walks, do things together, welcome loved ones home.
You don’t have to go through life alone – share problems and successes with other trusted people.
Be ready to admit that you need help.

Change patterns of beliefs

  • Take a good look at your beliefs and challenge them – they often feel comfortable because we’ve had them a long time but they’re not always true. 
  • Look at some of the beliefs and expectations you have about yourself and see if they’re really relevant, eg, “I’ve always been like that”, “It’s easier to do it myself”, “No pain, no gain” or “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. 
  • Change the beliefs you want to change by changing your thoughts, mixing with positive people or listening to motivational tapes.


  • Eat breakfast.
  • Eat from the food pyramid. 
  • Be especially careful to eat nourishing food when you’re under a lot of stress. 
  • Give yourself bonuses 
  • Send yourself flowers.
  • Buy in takeaways.
  • Go to a movie.

Always have a purpose in life

  • If you’re not happy with something, do something about it. 
  • Change one thing in your life at a time and stick to it for six weeks to set a pattern that will last for a long time. 
  • The most long-term changes are the ones we slowly absorb into our life. 

Set boundaries

  • Learn to say “No”. 
  • Decide how much time you’re going to give and stick with that, i.e. “When I’m on, I‘m on, and when I’m off, I’m off”. 

About the author: Annette Milligan is the founder of Nelson’s INP Medical Clinic (formerly known as the Independent Nursing Practice) 

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