Stress and anxiety are both extremely common - they’re your body’s way of responding to emergencies and difficult situations and can protect you from dangerous or demanding scenarios. Did you know that stress can save your life? For example, if you need to slam your brakes on to prevent a car accident, stress gives you extra strength to be able to do this. However, if you have a lot, or too much stress it can lead to long-term health problems. To help you out, we’ve pulled together some tips to help manage stress.
Exercise is well known for lifting your mood, by releasing serotonin, and benefitting your wellbeing. It can distract you from daily stress and can allow you to focus on something other than your negative thoughts that may be causing or increasing your stress. Exercise can also benefit your gut health which can have a positive effect on your brain because of the gut-brain connection.
Surround yourself with people who make you happy and whose company you enjoy. When you’re feeling anxious or agitated, speaking to others and engaging with positive people can calm your nervous system and improve your mood.
When you are experiencing a stress reaction, hormones are released that may cause you to experience negative physical symptoms, such as a faster heartbeat and breathing rate. Deep breathing can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s relaxation response. Focus on your awareness of each breath, breathing deeply; in through your nose and out through your mouth. The rate at which you are breathing, and your heart is beating should decrease following these simple steps, making you feel more relaxed and peaceful. While you’re doing this, you may want to listen to some relaxing, low-tempo music which can also slow your heart rate and decrease levels of stress hormones. Music provides a distraction, preventing the mind from wandering and helping us to explore our emotions.
A healthy amount of sleep is vital for your wellbeing and relieving stress. The NHS recommends around 8 hours of good-quality sleep every night. If you wake up tired every morning needing a nap, the chances are you’re not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep. Stress can make it difficult for you to sleep well, but by lowering your stress levels before going to bed, you could improve the quality and the duration of your sleep. You could do this by trying:
Mindfulness meditation is one of many relaxation techniques that helps you to acknowledge your senses and your feelings without reacting to them, just being aware of them. If you do around 10-30 minutes per night before bed, this can benefit your mental wellbeing and possibly help to reduce stress levels to give you a better night’s sleep.
Caffeine is a stimulant that, along with elevating stress, can increase your cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine levels. If levels of any of these hormones are high for a prolonged period of time you may feel more stressed and find it very difficult to sleep. If you are consuming high levels of caffeine, you may feel a lifted and happy sensation before this come down and you crash, craving more caffeine. By reducing your intake, you may feel that you get a small boost from caffeine, but you may not experience the loss of sleep and increased stress. Everyone’s sensitivity is different so do what works best for you! For information about the link between caffeine and stress click here.
Everyone experiences stress and not everyone copes with it in the same way. So, when stress arises in your life make sure you find the ways to relieve it which are best for you!