Stress is often called ‘the silent killer’ as it can lead to heart disease, suicide, poor immune function, cancer, chronic pain and high blood pressure. Here are some stress-busting ideas to create a happier, calmer life…
- Do something you love When you’re frazzled, stressed and angry, you often lose your sense of self. What makes you feel good? It could be meeting up with a friend for coffee, browsing a bookshop, having a bath, going for a run in the woods, crafting, doing a crossword, visiting a gallery, yoga…whatever it is, make sure you schedule it in at least once a week, if not more often. Stick to the commitment in the same way you would an important appointment, no excuses!
- Laugh! Laughing lowers stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and strengthens the immune system by releasing health-enhancing hormones. Call up a friend, read a funny book, make up silly stories with your kids, or watch a comedy.
- Eat well and regularly Stress can alter blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings, fatigue, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart attack and diabetes. It’s important to eat a balanced diet high in vitamins and minerals, and avoid sugar, alcohol and caffeine, at least until you feel stronger. Try not to leave too much time between meals; it’s much better to snack little and often than experience dramatic blood sugar crashes. Carry emergency healthy snacks in your bag – not just for your kids, but for you too!
- Manage your time effectively If you constantly have a to-do list that is as long as your arm and depressingly unachievable, break it down. Make a priority list. De-stressing gurus suggest setting a timer and giving yourself a set amount of time, say 15 minutes, to do a job you’ve been putting off. It’s surprising once you get started how quickly you can get things done and even if you don’t finish it, you’ve at least made a start.
- Sing your heart out Research shows that singing releases feel good hormones and you also feel your throat and heart chakra open up when you really begin to sing – a great release. Singing with others promotes a wonderful sense of connection and community so joining a choir could be just what you need. Find out if there’s a choir in your area or put on a favourite CD and sing along, preferably at the top of your voice.
- Say no and cut back on commitments You’ve heard it before, but it’s all too easy to agree to take on commitments when you’re feeling relaxed, only to find them overwhelming the next day. Think carefully about whether you can fit something in, and if you know you can’t, don’t feel bad about saying no. Once you get used to it, you’ll find it’s an empowering way to take control of your life and alleviate burn-out.
- Breathe Finding a good yoga class near you will make a world of difference to your general health. Pick one that covers all aspects of yoga, including breath work (pranayama) to learn techniques that will change your life. Or look on Youtube for one of the many stress-relieving breathing exercises. Getting enough oxygen to your cells and slowing down your breath can literally change your mood – think ‘take a breather!’.
- Use mantras and affirmations Find a little mantra that works for you. You can either use one of the powerful Sanskrit mantras, or write your own affirmations. Repeat it as often as needed, perhaps turning it in to a chant or song. You don’t have to say/sing it out loud, just repeat in your head. Mantras change neural pathways, enabling us to create a positive outlook and promoting transformation.
- Keep a gratitude journal When you’re bogged down in daily aggravations, it’s hard to remember the good stuff. Take the time to write down three things you’re grateful for each evening – your child’s laugh, a beautiful sunset, something lovely a friend said. This daily act is often enough to switch your focus from what’s wrong with your life to what’s right, and promote a more relaxed, positive attitude. You could also write down three things you’ve achieved, however small. Reward yourself for doing the washing up!
- Exercise, ideally outdoors Getting your quota of vitamin D, fresh air and plenty of exercise every day can have a massive impact on your wellbeing. Feeling completely irate after a difficult phone call and a dreary day? Wrap everybody up, put your wellies on, and get outside to jump in the puddles. Carrying the stress in your body? Put some loud music on and dance, really shaking your limbs out. If you live near woodland, take a walk under the trees. There’s nothing like the solid, centred energy of trees to calm and soothe the mind. No time? Just five minutes of yoga stretches whilst the kettle is boiling can make a huge difference.
AND REMEMBER, LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. YOU’RE PRECIOUS.
Article by Lucy Corkhill