Each year the first Wednesday of November is National Stress Awareness Day. We all have worries, it’s part of our day-to-day lives, but becoming overwhelmed by them can lead to mental health problems.
National Stress Awareness Day is a great opportunity to take a moment and think about your wellbeing and maybe seek help if you feel overwhelmed. This day aims to raise awareness about stress prevention and the importance for individuals and organisations to ensure that those who are suffering know where to seek help.
In aid of this day, we’ve put together some stress management tips you can try to help relieve stress in your day-to-day life.
1. Mindfulness, meditation and breathing.
The art of mindfulness describes the practice of anchoring yourself to the present moment. It can help combat anxiety caused by negative thoughts. By focusing on what’s happening immediately around you or individually acknowledging all the thoughts going through your head, it allows your brain to relax and put your life into perspective.
This could look like focusing on your breathing for a set amount of time. The act of breathing deeply reduces the effects of stress exponentially. Mental stress activates your nervous system that triggers your “fight-or-flight” mode. During this reaction, stress hormones are released and physical symptoms occur such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing and constricted blood vessels. Deep breathing exercises can trigger a relaxation response. Make sure you focus on your breath, making it slower and deeper. Breathing deeply fills your lungs and slows your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful even if you’re in a stressful situation.
Meditation and yoga are also other forms of mindfulness. There are different styles of yoga for all age groups, all you have to do is find the ideal one for you. Yoga helps you become aware of your body and your breathing. It lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate and it increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders. Thus, yoga is an effective mood enhancer.
2. Get outside or do some exercise
Exercise is one of the best things do if you feel anxious. It may seem contradictory, doing extra things and putting additional strain on your body, but it can relieve mental pressure. People who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from anxiety than those who do not.
This is because exercise lowers your body’s cortisol. It also helps release endorphins. This chemical improves your mood and acts as a pain killer. Exercise also helps you sleep, which is negatively affected by stress. Regular exercise also makes you feel more confident, promoting positive mental wellbeing. Establish an exercise routine, even if it’s just walking to relieve stress.
Even just changing your scenery, if you’re feeling stress can have a hugely positive effect on your mind and stress levels.
3. Spend time with friends and family
Helping you through stressful times is what your friends and family are for. Being part of a network gives you belonging and self-worth. Humans are meant to be in relationships and having deep and meaningful connections will help you get through tough times. Spending time with friends and family releases a chemical called oxytocin, a natural stress reliever.
Your friends and family might make you laugh, which also relieves stress and relaxes your muscles. In the long term, it can improve your immune system and mood.
As well as emotional connection, a physical connection is also really important for relieving stress. Cuddling releases oxytocin and lowers cortisol which helps lower blood pressure and your heart rate.
Sometimes our friends and family can’t be around. If this is the case, spend time with your pet which also has the same effect. It helps release oxytocin and promotes a positive mood. Having a pet helps relieve stress, it gives you a purpose, keeps you active and provides companionship. If you don’t have a pet, there are schemes like ‘borrow my doggy’, where you can borrow someone’s dog, take it for a walk and relieve stress that way.
You can take supplements to reduced stress some of them include:
· Lemon Balm: this is a member of the mint family and has an anti-anxiety effect.
· Omega-3 fatty acids: this can also reduce anxiety symptoms.
· Ashwagandha: this is a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety.
· Green tea: this contains polyphenol antioxidants which lower stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
· Valerian: this is a root and is a popular sleep aid. Valerian acid alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors which lower anxiety.
· Kava Kava: this is a psychoactive member of the pepper family. It has been long used as a sedative in the South Pacific and has been increasingly used in Europe and the US to treat mild stress and anxiety.
Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition.
You can also reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety. Be aware if it’s making you jittery or anxious and if so, cut back.
5. Lifestyle changes
You could try writing down and recording when you’re stressed or keeping a journal. This makes you mindful of what is causing the stress. You could also write down what you’re grateful for. Turning your thoughts to the positive relieves stress and anxiety.
You can’t control all the stresses in your life, but try to take control of the things you can that are causing your stress by saying, ‘no’. This is useful if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle. Juggling many responsibilities can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Be selective of what you take on.
At the same time, another way to control your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and learn to avoid procrastination. Procrastination leaves completing all your responsibilities to the last minute, causing stress. This can relate to your work or personal life and can affect our health and sleep quality. Get into the habit of making a list and sticking to realistic deadlines. Work on the things that need to be done today, give yourself a chunk of uninterrupted time, as switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful.
6. Take a bath, add some candles and music
Some people find taking a bath incredibly stress-relieving. Taking time out of your day and reserving it for yourself is a great way to wind down after a long day. The hot water also relaxes your muscles taking away some of that physical stress.
For an extra de-stressing bathing experience why not add aromatherapy to the mix. Burning essential oils or scented candles can reduce the feelings of stress and help you sleep after. Calming scents include lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, chamomile, neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, orange blossom and geranium.
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