6 ways to reduce stress
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. But, living with high levels of stress over a long time can seriously impact our physical and mental health, so it is important to learn how to manage and reduce stress.
Here are 6 simple ways you can reduce stress levels at work, school or home. Find the ones that work best for you and introduce them into your daily routine.
Mindfulness is a proven technique to improve mental health and reduce stress. It helps us stay present and avoid being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions. A simple and effective method is to focus on your breath. This acts as an constant anchor that we can use if we find ourselves stressed, or anxious.
How to practice mindful breathing
Try to find a place where you won't be disturbed giving this time for yourself. You might also want to use a timer with a gentle alarm so you don't feel the need to keep looking at a clock.
Read through the steps below before starting the practice or click here to listen to a guided breathing practice from 'Headspace'.
- Find a comfortable position, this can be seated on a chair or the floor, standing or lying down. Keep you back upright and body relaxed. You might choose to close your eyes, or just have a soft gaze somewhere ahead of you.
- Notice your body here; the points that touch the floor or chair, any areas where you still hold tension, do you feel warm or cold?
- Bring your awareness to your breath, noticing the rhythm, pace and depth of the breath. Where can you feel your breath in the body? Can you notice the pauses between your breaths? Don't worry if you can't notice these things, there is no right or wrong answer.
- It's OK if your mind wanders. Just notice that this has happened and gently bring it back to focus on your breath.
- Try to stay here for at least 3-5 minutes. When you're ready slowly bring your attention back to your body. Take 2-3 breaths relaxing the body even further on each exhale.
- Thank yourself for taking the time to do this practice, before continuing with your day.
Take A Walk
It's been proven that doing a little physical activity outside boosts stress-fighting endorphins, increases energy and improves self esteem. It's good to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day so think of ways to introduce a little bit into your life:
- Walk or cycle to work/school.
- Find an activity you actually enjoy: yoga, walking, cycling, game sports - running is not the only option.
- Exercise as a family: walk the dog together, take a trip to the park or maybe play a game of football.
- Invite a friend and make it a social activity you wouldn't want to turn down.
Interested in mindful walking? Click here to learn more from bupa.co.uk
Write It Down
Journaling is a healthy way to process your emotions and encourages positive thinking and self awareness. There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal, it is a personal expression of your thoughts. If you need a little help getting started here are some websites to check out:
Set Realistic Goals
Have you heard of SMART goals?
Goals can give a sense of purpose, but if a goal is too vague then it's difficult to know if we have reached it, leading to negative thoughts. Set SMART goals and you'll be motivated to move forward and ready to adapt your goal-posts if needed.
Did you know a healthy diet not only keeps your body in shape but your mind too?
- Reducing your blood sugar levels can help in managing stress, so avoid sugary meals and drinks and eat more whole, natural foods.
- Consuming too much caffeine can cause long-term energy lows, so if you love your tea and coffee replace one or two cups with decaf or herbal and fruit teas.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water little and often throughout the day - the NHS recommends about 6-8 cups or 1.2-1.5 litres.
- Don't skip meals! Eat regularly, perhaps with healthy snacks in between meals to maintain energy levels and mood. Remember to fuel your activities too.
- Protein is essential as it slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. If you are a meat-eater balance your protein in-take with beans and pulses.
When you have a lot on your 'plate', it's easy to turn to ready-made meals that are high in sugar and low in nutrients. Here are some great websites for quick, easy and healthy meals you can make in less than 30 minutes:
Regular, quality sleep has a positive impact on our mental health. It decreases cortisol levels (responsible for your fight or flight reaction), boosts your energy and improves your mood. If you're struggling to get a good night sleep introduce a positive sleep routine to your evening:
- Get enough sleep to begin with. For adults it is recommended to have 7 to 9 hours, for teenagers it's 8 to 10 and for school-age children it is 9 to 12. Plan when you or your child needs to wake up in the morning and count back to set a regular bedtime.
- Wind down and prepare your body for bed. Turn off your phone and find something that relaxes you, you might turn to a yoga or mindfulness practice.
- If you mind is busy, write it all down in your journal before bed and leave it for another day.