How To Relieve Stress
We all experience stress at some point in our daily lives, some of us more than others. And it’s how we deal with those stressful moments that really matters. Stress can actually be a positive thing – think working towards a deadline, finishing a thesis, or even standing on the touchline waiting to be brought into play in the final minutes of a soccer game – but when it starts to affect your physical or mental health, then it needs to be kicked into touch.
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best ways to deal with stress and help take the sting out of its tail.
1. Get Physical
When it comes to combatting the effects of stress on the body and mind, getting active is top of the must-do list. Positively taxing your body through regular exercise can not only reduce the effects of stress but also make you more resilient. Exercise helps to lower cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, as well as releasing those feel-good endorphin hormones to improve your mood.
Consistent aerobic exercise, in particular, is your stress-reliever best friend, so put on your running shoes and get outside in the fresh air. Top tip: always do exercise you enjoy and during periods of prolonged stress, try to avoid combative or team sports.
2. Take Back Control
When under stress, it can feel like things are getting out of hand so it’s important to take a step back to see what aspects of a stressful situation are within your control. You can’t control everything but if you can take some key steps to getting a grip on those areas you can, it will make all the difference to how you react to a situation.
Juggling too many tasks, not having enough hours in a day to do everything you have to and feeling under pressure from all corners, can seem overwhelming but just by getting a little more organized you can free some headspace to take back control. So, in the workplace, be clear on your workload, decide to work smarter rather than harder and learn to say no.
3. Get More Sleep
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘sleep on it, it will seem better in the morning’ but if your sleep is insufficient, you could find yourself in a vicious stress circle. Stress can also prevent quality sleep as your mind remains active even at bedtime. Reclaim your snooze time by taking proactive steps for a good night’s rest. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening and switch off your work and tech several hours before you go to bed. Have a warm shower or bath and spend some time doing relaxation exercises or meditation to calm your body and mind. Leave your gadgets outside the bedroom and read or listen to soothing music for a short while before setting your alarm clock and turning off the lights. Try to get into the same nighttime routine and you should soon be able to fall asleep in no time and sleep like a baby, ready to take on whatever the next day may bring.
4. Take Up Yoga
When stressed, you hold all that tension in both your body and your mind, making it harder for you to stay calm and relaxed. If this sounds like you, then yoga is going to help. By gently stretching out those tight muscles, yoga also makes you focus on your breath awareness, which is a total tonic for a frazzled mind. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and cortisol while raising your body’s feelgood factor. So, whether you choose to join a class or practice in the comfort of your own home, just unroll your yoga mat and make those asanas part of your regular, stress-busting routine.
5. Eat Healthily
Eating well – and not stress overeating – can help improve your mood and sustain your energy. As part of your self-care routine, a healthy, balanced diet is essential, so ensure you are eating enough fresh fruit and veg, unprocessed carbs, quality proteins, and good fats. This way you have all the right nutrients and are also eating foods that steadily release their energy, so you don’t experience the stress slump. Good stress-busting foods include blueberries, almonds, and salmon. (Sorry, but that quick hit fast-food burger doesn’t make the list.)
6. Avoid Bad Habits
Keeping with ‘my body is a temple’ theme, it’s important to resist certain bad habits when dealing with stress. It can be tempted to see that extra beer, a packet of cigarettes or super-strong expresso as a helpful way to get over a ‘stress hump’ but they can actually make things worse. Alcohol is known to be a depressant, while both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and while they may all give you temporary relief, they don’t help to solve the stress – it will still be there in the morning…as will the headache. Turn to all the other solutions in our ‘10 ways to beat stress’ list instead.
7. Try Aromatherapy
Instead of waking up and smelling the coffee when stress hits, wake up to the sweet and soothing aroma of essential oils to calm a stressed our body and mind.
Aromatherapy essential oils can help to lower anxiety and stress as well as raise your mood and overall feeling of wellbeing. Depending on the oils you use, they are thought to work by stimulating your brain’s limbic system, which in turn releases chemicals to promote calmness and relaxation. Add lavender, rose, bergamot, Roman chamomile, neroli or geranium to your essential oil diffuser and breathe in those sweet aromas to breathe away all that stress.
8. Be More Mindful
We are all familiar with that stress buzz when your thoughts are racing and you find it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. This is where the concept of mindfulness comes in. It’s such a simple premise but by bringing your thinking back into the present moment can diffuse a stressed mind and bring a sense of clarity and much-needed calm.
Think of mindfulness as ‘time out for the mind’ and you’ll get the gist. The simplest form of mindfulness is to focus on your breathing and noting the rhythm. You need to put time into practicing mindfulness every day but even a few minutes can do the trick and you will then have a great tool in your stressbuster toolbox if you feel your racing thoughts are starting to get out of hand.
9. Take A Deep Breath
You can slow your heart rate, calm your mind and help to switch off your body’s fight-or-flight mode just by taking a few deep breaths when you feel your stress levels starting to rise. And the beauty is that no-one needs to know you are doing it. A few deep breaths should be enough to at least bring a little calm or ‘breathing space’ to a stressful situation. But for really effective stress relief, learning some deep breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration can make all the difference when it comes to stopping stress in its tracks.
10. Keep Connected…
A good support network of friends, work colleagues and family are essential when it comes to keeping stress levels in check. Having a healthy and active social network will boost your sense of self-worth and help you to keep perspective on a stressful situation. Not only will you have people to turn for help, or to talk to a social network can stop you from getting isolated in stressful times.
Even if they can’t help you solve a stressful situation, they can help you step out from it for a while for some light relief – and as they say, laughter is often the best medicine. And if you feel good about yourself, then you will be more resilient to the challenges and stress curveballs life always has a habit of throwing at you.