Stress is on the rise, more people each year are reporting stress as being a problem in their life: effecting their work, home life and health. After years of depression, stress and barely keeping my head above water with our modern, frantic pace of life, I finally broke down, and after a couple of months off work with stress I finally quit. It was time to get out, heal myself and get some perspective.
So that’s what I did, I checked out of society, and in 2010 I moved to rural Sardinia with my retired partner and took some time to heal. It was pretty drastic and most people can’t or don’t want to go quite that far! Well, rather than suggesting you quit your job, abandon society and move to a foreign country, I would instead like to share some of the simple things you can do to manage your own stress, some of the practices that have really helped me to learn how to deal with stress, get a different perspective on life and feel healthier, happier & more positive.
1. Take a deep breath
Our breathing is possibly the cheapest, easiest and most effective way of controlling our central nervous system and getting our body to calm down. By learning very simple breathing exercises we can tell our bodies to chill out, relax and calm down! Breathing more deeply and extending our exhalation (out breath) makes our body stop producing those nasty, unhealthy stress hormones and start producing those nice relaxing hormones instead. Ok, so that’s a bit of a super-simplified explanation of the sympathetic (fight, flight response) and parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system, but you get the idea!
2. Count to 10
It’s a another of those cliché’s, but giving yourself time to pause, reflect and acknowledge what is going on before reacting, can make all the difference. Learning how to observe how you are reacting, both
- emotionally; how you are feeling, what is the emotion and why are you feeling this way, and
- physically; focusing on how this reaction or emotion feels in the body can give you some perspective and allow you to make more positive, calmer choices when you respond to stress. By learning to recognise why we respond in certain ways, by learning our own behaviour patterns, we can choose a different path and learn to respond in a way that is more beneficial to us emotionally and physically.
3. Eat away your stress
So I’m not suggesting we get out the ice cream and chocolate and start bingeing here; I’m talking about making healthy choices about what we eat to manage our stress! Certain foods can help us to be less stressed and promote a sense of calm.
- Foods high in Magnesium, like Spinach & Quinoa promote a sense of calm.
- Foods high in Omega 3, like walnuts, nourish the brain helping you think more clearly, and reduce stress hormones.
- Foods containing tryptophan, like sunflower seeds, soy & spirulina, cause the production of serotonin; that feel good hormone.
- Foods containing vitamin C, like kiwi, kale and guava, reduce stress levels and boost your immune system.
And guess what?…. certain foods can actually cause that nasty stress hormone, Cortisol, levels to rise! And guess what they are?…. yup, anything packed with fat, sugar or salt; so avoid cakes, chips and crisps!
4. Sleep more
Get a good nights sleep.
Try to get more sleep, go to bed a bit earlier than usual. It’s another one of those vicious circles, you’re stressed out, can’t get to sleep so you sleep less. And in turn, less sleep lowers your immunity, makes you irritable and reduces your ability to cope causing you more angst and anxiety. So how do you break this cycle?
Here are a few tips to get more sleep:
Switch off the TV & computer at least half an hour before you go to bed: use this time to have a relaxing bath or listen to some calming music.
Do some very gentle yoga or Tai Chi to help calm your body and mind.
Listen to a guided body relaxation.
Do some long, slow, deep breathing and become completely involved in the process of breathing, how it feels, the movements of the body, the flow of air at the lips, nostrils of the back of the throat. You can also count your breaths, counting backwards from 100 to 0 each time you inhale and exhale.
5. Learn some stress management tools
Finally, make some time to learn some tools that will help you to reduce your stress levels and help you to deal with any issues in your work or home life. Mindfulness based stress management techniques have been shown to reduce stress levels and to help us to be more peaceful and happy within ourselves, despite an increasingly overwhelming and demanding world.
There are lots of really simple and very effective tools out there we can use to help ourselves, these are just 5 that I have found useful in my own life.
OM TIMES: Top 5 Tips for Reducing Stress in 2014
by Alexandra Redmond