British Stress Management

A lot of stress management techniques come from the USA, and while they have there uses many have an exuberantly optimistic flavour that like cheap instant coffee leaves a bad taste in stiff-lipped British mouths. In the UK we have plenty of experience dealing with stress, from The Blitz, to losing at all the sports we invented to the daily hassles of the unreliable weather and rail. We have learnt to cope with this in some highly effective ways which I’d like to highlight in this article. I have travelled the world and lived in a dozen countries so have some points of comparison as to what we have to offer stress wise, so here are my top British stress management tips – read them in Anglian celebration or if you are Johnny-foreigner, to learn how give stress a good British bashing:

A Nice Cup of Tea

Tea is the benchmark of civilisation and the dividing line between stressed-out barbarism and stress-free elegance. In my family home and in several organisations I have worked in whenever anything bad happened someone immediately said…”I’ll put the kettle on then and make us all a nice cup of tea”. Sitting down and reflecting for a moment before jumping into action is highly beneficial and the familiar social ritual of making tea is an excellent stress management intervention. Tea itself of course in moderation (and we British are nothing but moderate) is also good for your health.

Just Getting On With It

While I’m a great believer in emotional intelligence and not a fan of the legendary stiff upper lip, there is a time and a place for stoicism. Sometimes discussing feelings ad nauseum sitting in circles and and passing a talking stick is OK, and sometimes its better just to chap-up and get on with it.  While this is not appropriate for traumatic stress (several 7-7 bombing survivors were in fact at pains to point out at a conference recently that the the notion of the legendary upper lip was highly damaging to survivors) for minor life hassles just getting on with it can be very effective. There is a word for someone who expresses all emotions and all times without self-management – toddler. We are grown-ups not children or colonials.

It’s About Taking Part

The British have traditionally been good losers…we have to as we have lots of practice. This attitude to competition that it is about taking part that counts is highly beneficial for stress management. Why get stressed when you can be in control of “success beyond success” meaning that no matter what the results of life’s challenges are if you have done your best you still “win”. Americans say “loser” like it was an insult which ultimately makes them all ghastly, ghastly losers.

Acceptance and Serfdom

US media brainwashing has started to encourage narcissistic tendencies in British youth which is a disaster. “You are not a special and unique snowflake” I would counter (from one of the few American films to address this trend)! While of course “knowing your place” has some negative class connotations a really positive side as the acceptance that came with this philosophy. Thinking you’re special can be very stressful when life clearly indicates you’re not, so let’s have some humility and let go of this one.

Pubs Are The Best Stress Management Treatment Centres

While I couldn’t possible condone emotional repression through alcohol intake the British pub is a venerable tradition of social support and group bonding after work – long may it continue. It also helps counteract our aversion to touching, sex and honesty which can be highly beneficial to stress management.


Change is stressful and British people are rightly cautious of it favouring tradition and the familiar. Let other people find out what works and what doesn’t. Long live The Queen.


I have lived in many unpleasant foreign lands where people did not have the good grace to line-up! This is distastefully stressful and should be discouraged even when abroad with stern looks and judgemental tuts. If you see a queue just join it and relax.


The British have the best sense of humour in the world, and no, I’m not joking. Humour is a great stress management aid and let’s face it Americans take themselves FAR to seriously and Europeans are just odd.  While US sincerity and German toilet humour is admirable too much is clearly a bad show. I’m hoping readers from abroad get this far before leaving angry stressed-out comments.


OK so this last one’s less positive but perhaps complaining incessantly and bitterly serves a purpose. When you really can’t do anything about a situation you might as well vent. I also suspect if we gave each other more real empathy and positive action in the UK there would be less moaning…but this great national sport exists for a purpose so let’s celebrate it.

So there you have it, why when it comes to stress Blightly is best.  You better believe it…I’m not sure if I do 🙂


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