We all encounter stressful times in our lives, ranging from the trivial (like missing a train) to the more serious moments (such as a family member’s illness). No matter the gravity of the situation, stress floods our body with hormones, making your heart beat faster, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense.
This physical reaction is a natural stress response, built into our bodies since prehistoric times to help us survive threats like animal attacks or natural disasters. Today, these types of threats are less likely - but our physical response is the same, and too much of it can be harmful to our health and happiness!
This time of year can be stressful for many reasons, with end of term exams or family stress making us feel overwhelmed or depressed.
Keep reading for six tips on reducing stress.
- Breathwork. Take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as belly breathing) to disengage your mind from distracting thoughts or sensations.
- Muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, focus on different parts of your body one by one, mentally releasing physical tension. This is great for strengthening your mind-body connection.
- Use your imagination. Close your eyes and mentally transport yourself to a place that makes you feel safe and happy. If you need support, you can find lots of free guided imagery meditations on YouTube.
- Practice mindfulness. Sit comfortably, focus on your breathing, and hone in on the present moment, forgetting the past and the future.
- Try yoga, tai chi, or qigong. These ancient arts combine flowing movement with rhythmic breathing to help distract you from racing thoughts (and it doesn’t hurt that they help you become more flexible, too!)
- Find a mantra. Repeat a short phrase or mantra to yourself, and try to focus on only this mantra.
In addition to the above practices, living a healthier lifestyle is crucial for stress management.
Here are our top tips:
- We can’t stress this enough: sleep! Both the quality and the quantity of your sleep are important in order for you to stay productive, healthy, happy, and focused.
- Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar is inflammatory and spikes your glucose levels, meaning you’ll get a quick burst of energy followed by a sudden crash. This can affect your stress levels, your mood, and your sleep! Focus on healthy fats like nuts or complex carbs like wholegrain bread for prolonged, stable energy.
- Reduce your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoons.
- Incorporate movement into your day - this will help transform some of the anxious energy you might be feeling into a more positive type of energy.