We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives. It’s actually a perfectly normal reaction that developed from our ancient ancestors to help us deal with threats.
It’s just that now, the body cannot distinguish between a traffic jam and a sabre tooth tiger. We react – or overreact – to daily stresses with that fight or flight response multiple times a day and it ends up leaving us exhausted and on edge.
The good news is there’s ways you can help manage symptoms of stress and boost your wellbeing – but always remember, if your stress is persisting it’s best to speak to your healthcare professional.
Listen to music
Playing calm music has been shown to have a positive effect on the brain, lowering blood pressure and reducing levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Classical music and nature sounds have been proven to be the most relaxing – no wonder it’s the soundtrack of choice in day spas.
Call a friend
Close connections with friends and loved ones are linked to better emotional health. And although sometimes we don’t have much choice, talking about it in person (or on the phone) is better than email or social media. Why? Because typed words lack the depth, subtlety and reassurance of body language or voice from someone who loves you.
Put it into perspective
A simple but old favourite mind trick – ask yourself “will this matter in 10 years’ time?” (hint: most things you’re worried about won’t).
A healthy, varied diet can help the body overcome the physical demands of a stressful lifestyle; ironically, it’s often when we’re most busy we rely on convenience foods. B vitamins in particular are said to be useful; wholegrains, legumes, mushrooms and turkey are good food sources. Alcohol leaches B-vitamins from your system too, another good reason to stay off the booze during tough times.
Watch a comedy
… or some silly videos on You Tube. Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
Research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia. In one study done at Britain’s University of Southampton, researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults. For a week, half the participants slept in a room where lavender scented essential oil was diffused in the air throughout the night; the rest snoozed in a similar room where a placebo – sweet almond oil – was used. After a week, the groups switched rooms. At the end of the study, the volunteers ranked the quality of their sleep 20% better on average when in the lavender-scented room. Try sprinkling lavender on your pillow at night; mist a Sleep Aroma Mist in the bedroom or dab a roll on blend on your wrists while you’re winding down in the evening.
Exercise (even for a minute)
A short walk, or even standing up to stretch in the office, can provide immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving around your body releases endorphins which provides an instant mood lift.
Turn off the TV/Ipad/smart phone
… and get to bed earlier. Everyone finds it easier to cope when they’re better rested. Blue light emitted from devices can interrupt the production of the sleep hormone, Melatonin – so shut them off at least an hour before sleep.
Watch those large lattes
Excessive caffeine – whether it’s from coffee, energy drinks or even too much tea – can cause a short term spike in blood pressure and causes your adrenal glands to go into overdrive, which is not a relaxation-friendly state to be in.
Mindful breathing has been a Buddhist relaxation technique for centuries and is perhaps the simplest and most underrated way to relax wherever you are, whatever the circumstance. For an easy 3 minute exercise, sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on the top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and helps centre your body and mind.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare professional.