I’ve said this before, and it is worth remembering – stress is inevitable. You are never going to eradicate stress from your life completely, and frankly, that’s a good thing!
It’s the harmful, chronic stress that we should be wary of and with good reason. Chronic stress has been shown to have many negative health impacts, and there have been several studies that prove the link between stress in our lives and accelerated aging for our mind and bodies.
In a previous post, I looked at ways to build long-term stress-busting routines into your daily life, but there are also many even simpler tips to help relieve anxiety. Here are ten quick wins to combat stress, for people living busy lives.
Taking a series of deep breaths when you’re stressed or feeling anxious has been shown to lower cortisol levels. Studies have also confirmed that slow, deep breathing means you’re using your diaphragm and abdomen to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Slow, deep breaths also bolster the parasympathetic system, which is responsible for the body’s rest and digest function.
Take Some Tea
Ingesting caffeine causes a short-term rise in blood pressure. Instead of coffee, or sugary, caffeine-fuelled sodas, try a cup of green, black or herbal tea. Tea is brimming with youth preserving antioxidants and an amino acid called theanine, which has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Listen to Music
Listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. “Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” says Cathy Benninger, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Good relationships with friends and family are important to any healthy lifestyle, and your social network is one of the best tools for handling stress. Social connections make us part of something larger than ourselves and our worries. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, take the time to talk to others – preferably face to face, but a phone or Skype chat will do. Share what’s going on. A reassuring voice can help put things into perspective.
It may seem like an odd solution to the problem of stress, but research suggests that gum chewers have a higher state of alertness, coupled with reduced anxiety, stress and a lower cortisol level.
Get Some Sleep
It can feel like a truly vicious circle – suffering from stress can lead to a lack of sleep, and a lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress! There are several ways to improve your chances of getting more rest. Dim the lights, turn the TV off earlier and give yourself a chance to relax before going to bed. You may be living a busy life, but staying up late to try and get more work done is only robbing you of productivity.
Laugh it up
This stress-buster fits in nicely with the earlier idea of hanging out with your friends. If you get a healthy round of laughter going, you’re well on the way to lightening your mood, by boosting your brain’s endorphins. Scientists also find that blood flow increases during laughter, which reduces stress on the circulatory system. Essentially, laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy!
Grab a Massage
The physical pain alleviating benefits of a good massage have long been accepted, but it’s also true that massage therapy is valuable for fighting stress and improving both mood and sleep quality. Delivering a healing, restorative massage isn’t something anyone can just do, so make sure you’re visiting a trained massage therapist. If you just can’t get to a professional, take a few minutes to give your feet, back and legs a massage yourself.
Get a Move on
All forms of exercise play a significant role in youth preservation. If you want a longer, healthier lifespan, then you should be exercising regularly. Apart from helping to keep your body in excellent physical condition, the good news for people looking to relieve stress is that exercise helps get rid of built-up tension and stress hormones, as well as providing a spike in the level of endorphins. The concentration needed to play sports also temporarily diverts our attention away from whatever is bothering us.
The idea of having a furry friend to cuddle up to seems like a natural stress-melter, and now, an Australian study shows that pet owners have a marked reduction in the risk factors related to cardiac disease. Dogs also especially love to go for long walks, so why not include them in your regular exercise routine? Check out therapy pig LILou who calms down stressed out passengers at San Francisco airport.
For a lot of people, the workplace can be the number one area where they encounter stress. All the pressure of deadlines and important projects can cause stress levels to spiral out of control. If you are getting worried at work, here are three stress-busting ideas:
A lunch break should be exactly that – a break. The idea of working through lunch, or wolfing down food as quickly as possible so you can crack on with work again is so wrong! Eating while continuing to check emails, etc. can lead to mindless eating, causing weight gain. Try and get some fresh air in the middle of your working day – sun rays encourage the body to produce Vitamin D and serotonin, a hormone associated with anxiety relief.
Whatever your daily schedule, make sure to set a time at the end of the day to switch off your phone and all your gadgets. Doing this allows your body to unplug from the day’s workplace stressors.
Learn to Say No
According to life coach Suzy Greaves, knowing when and how to say no is one of the key skills to managing workplace stress. She explains that saying yes can win you brownie points in the short term, but if you take on too much and fail to deliver, it can be a disastrous long-term strategy.