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So if you read our previous post about stress you will know that it is Stress Awareness Month this April; so in honour of that, our Health Cocktails are about understanding and finding ways to reduce stress.
The concept of stress is a fairly recent discovery, it was first identified and documented by Han Selye in the late 1950’s and it led to new research that has helped millions create coping methods. We have previously discussed how stress affects us physically, as well as psychologically, so…
Here are our top 10 tips to help reduce stress in your life
Obviously don’t forget to breathe (that would be bad), during a stressful situation breathing can sometimes feel difficult. A good way to combat this is the 448 method, meaning you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds and then breathe out for 8 seconds, and the repeat until you feel better. This will help slow your heart rate, and it oxygenates your blood to help ease the tension in your chest.
Yes, that is a Buddhist Monk giggling…As hard as this might be, and as ridiculous as it sounds, laughing will help a lot. It releases endorphins that instantly improve your mood and decreases your levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. This tricks your nervous system into making you happy, so put YouTube on with the funny cat videos, or even better a good old Monty Python sketch – silly walks is a classic! Or simply force a fake laugh and then chuckle your way out of stress (it really does work).
If you are anything like me, where you love to sit on the sofa after a long day in the office then, like me, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. The lack of fresh air, and even natural sunlight, cannot be good for you. Going through the ‘daily grind’can be just that, a grind. But a change in scenery, a mini-break or a weekend away, whatever you choose to call it can do wonders. It won’t cure your problems, but it will help to ease your worries and stresses of everyday life a little, letting you come back to them refreshed and recharged, and able to deal with stressful situations a bit better than before.
The most British solution to any problem, ever. But stay away from builders tea (normal tea), coffee and especially energy drinks, as large doses of caffeine causes a short term spike in stress inducing hormones (put down the Red Bull!). Try some green tea, it has half the caffeine of coffee and includes lots of antioxidants, as well as Theanine which is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system. And it tastes great too! (I have Green and Lemon tea…yum!)
Not like that Chris Tarrant show from decades ago… but when you are stressed, calling a friend is a good way to help reduce that feeling. I know that it can be hard to talk to someone, but good relationships are important to a healthy lifestyle. They are a great sounding board, and help to put everything in perspective. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put you at ease and decrease your worries. Also if you try to call Obama, let me know how you get on!
The Health Cocktail has talked about mindfulness a few times, and the super lovely Sarah even shared her experience with us. This is a lifestyle change rather than offering immediate relief, however once you learn how to properly use the techniques, it can offer immediate relief when needed. Taking yoga, Pilates, meditation or tai chi classes will help with this in the long run.
Okay so this doesn’t have to mean power lifting or running a marathon, so don’t worry! Even just a short walk around the office, standing up and having a stretch or even having a little dance all helps! It can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation, as well as prevent stressful feelings, it gets your blood moving and in turn releases endorphins that instantly improve your mood. Put a bit of N*SYNC on, and bust out those 90’s dance routines!
So I have six animals (two puppies and four cats) and a husband who snores like a train, I know very well how hard this can be. But that makes it even more important, sleep is closely linked to stress and anxiety, while we sleep our brains work through our worries and stresses. A lack of sleep can create a vicious cycle and set your body completely out of wack, getting a healthy sleep routine and making sure to get 7 -8 hours a night is paramount. I’ve found going up half an hour before everyone else, and meditating before sleep helps a lot, the deep breathing oxygenates your blood and helps you centre your body, as well as clearing your mind ready to settle down.
Speaking from experience this helps a lot! When you are feeling overwhelmed take a break, put on some headphones and blast those tunes. Music has a positive effect on the brain and body, it can lower your blood pressure and reduce the levels of cortisol hormones. Classical music seems to be a popular choice here, as well as ocean and nature sounds, but honestly any music you like will work, sometimes angry heavy mental makes me feel good, and for others soothing Ed Sheeran does the trick, it’s all personal preference. I often sleep to the sound of rainfall on my phone too, but be careful, you will wake up desperate for the loo!
Animals instinctively react to your body language, they will often try to help you in stressful situations by sitting on you, rubbing themselves against you and licking you. This is their way of showing they know all is not well and they want to help. If you are stroking your dog/cat/rabbit your breathing will automatically replicate your soothing actions, slowing your breathing and racing thoughts. This can also be a great lifestyle change, maybe getting you outside a bit more and having an animal would force your to live a calmer life: as shouting and stressing will cause nervous behaviour in your animal, helping you to focus on your reactions to situations. And you can’t be mad/stressed when there is a cute fur-baby around!
So those are my top ten ways to help with stress. I really hope that these have helped a little, or given you a little something to think about that may help. If you have any great tips please let us know! If you are struggling with stress please visit the Stress website for some really helpful information, and the Mind charity website too – both offer professional help, as well as ebooks and group meetings!
So you lovely Darwinites, let’s look forward to the next cocktail! And always remember, take a breath, keeping moving forward and always be kind to yourself.
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