Here are 10 ways to help kiss your stress goodbye
If new research is anything to go by, the chances are you spent at least four days last week worrying about things such as work and family responsibilities.
Indeed a study, conducted by veterans’ and Armed Forces’ charity FirstLight Trust, has revealed that Britain is more stressed out than ever before, finding that many of us spend less than half an hour a day relaxing.
With so little downtime, it’s no wonder we’re feeling frazzled.
What’s more, women are more likely to suffer with stress than men, with one in three confessing they feel stressed every day.
But with International Stress Awareness Day on Wednesday, there has never been a better time to make a change.
Just a few simple steps can make a real difference to mounting stress levels.
We asked the experts for their top tips to dial down the pressure.
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With International Stress Awareness Day on Wednesday, there has never been a better time to make a change
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
It might sound simple, but one of the best ways to beat stress is to stop and take a breath.
When we are stressed our breathing becomes shallow and panic sets in because our body is in “fight-or-flight” mode.
“Taking deep belly breaths and making the out-breath slightly longer than the in-breath helps to get us out of fight-or-flight mode and into relaxation mode,” says Chloe Brotheridge, anxiety expert at calmer-you.com and author of The Anxiety Solution.
“Breathe in for a count of three and let your belly expand. Then breathe out for five counts and let your stomach flatten.”
Take a moment to do this breathing exercise whenever you feel overwhelmed.
Something as simple as taking a deep breath can reduce stress
HAVE A HEALTHY BREAKFAST
Breakfast can easily be forgotten in the morning rush, only to be replaced by a sugary cereal bar.
But eating a healthy breakfast packed with B vitamins could help you to ward off stress.
“Our brains need B vitamins to make the ‘happy hormone’ seratonin,” explains Mary Cotter, a nutritional therapist at Nuffield Health.
“So when we are stressed our body’s need for B vitamins increases. These vitamins can’t be stored in the body, so we have to eat them every day in order to feel happy.”
Try chopping up a banana and topping it with yogurt and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds for a healthy meal full of B vitamins to help combat stress.
A healthy breakfast will help make your body feel more comfortable
DRINK HERBAL TEA
There are few things more comforting than a steaming mug of tea.
But swapping your builder’s brew for herbal tea could have stress-busting benefits.
“Some herbal teas contain ‘superherbs’ such as tulsi, which decrease the levels of stress hormones in the body,” says medical herbalist Katie Pande.
“This means we expend less energy through stress and will therefore feel less frazzled.”
Pukka Herbs Three Tulsi Tea (£2.49, pukkaherbs.com) is not only packed with stress-busting tulsi, but tastes great too.
Herbal teas contain certain ‘super herbs’ which can reduce hormone concentration
FIND A FURRY FRIEND
Even the hardest of hearts melts when faced with a pair of big brown eyes and a wagging tail.
Spending time with animals cuts stress by reducing flight-or-fight hormones.
Dr Lesley Parkinson, clinical psychologist at Alpha-Stim, says: “Dogs and cats bring great health benefits.
Studies show that talking to and petting an animal reduces heart rate and blood pressure.”
If you don’t have a pet, borrow one from a service such as Borrow My Doggy (borrowmydoggy.com).
Pets have been shown to reduce blood pressure
MOVE YOUR BODY
With mounting to-do lists, it can be hard to find time to exercise.
But just a few minutes of movement a day could be the boost you need.
“A gentle workout releases endorphins into the brain which help you to feel better and more relaxed,” says Chris Magee, head of yoga for Another Space.
“It is also an opportunity to take some time out of your day to focus on you – a chance to remove yourself from the source of stress and return to the problem refreshed.”
Start your day right with a gentle stretch, then use your lunchtime to go for a short walk.
HELP SOMEONE ELSE
It might be the furthest thing from your mind when you have a big workload but Carole Willis, therapist at Priory Hayes Grove Hospital, says helping someone else could be just the tonic for stress.
“If you are busy, get busier – not for yourself but for someone else. It sounds counter-intuitive, but helping someone else will distract you from your own stress and give you a feeling of wellbeing.”
So next time stress gets you down, try doing something to help a friend or colleague.
It could be something as simple as making them a cup of tea, or offering to do the washing up.
Helping a fellow human could help distract you from your own stress
GET SOME REST
We all know how important sleep is but when we have a lot on our plate, it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends.
But no matter how busy you are, getting a good night’s kip will make you feel more productive and better equipped to handle stress during the day.
“The most important thing when it comes to getting a good night’s rest is to stick to a schedule where you can, and go to bed at roughly the same time every day,” says wellbeing consultant Beate O’Neill.
“Aim for seven to eight hours a night and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired again, such as reading or listening to quiet music.”
Visit time4sleep.co. uk/relaxation-zone for more sleep tips.
It might not seem like a very long time but 10 minutes could be all you need when it comes to stressing less.
Health counsellor Julie Montagu says: “I firmly believe that one of the most powerful ways to combat stress is by taking just 10 minutes at the beginning or end of each day, whether that’s sitting or lying in stillness, taking an Epsom salt bath, writing down what you’re grateful for or making a fresh juice.
“Just be sure to close the doors wherever you are for at least 10 minutes a day and do something just for you.”
Try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier than usual tomorrow and doing one thing that is just for you.
Taking ten at points during the day could really benefit stress levels
USE YOUR SENSES
The ancient art of aromatherapy is one of the oldest and best ways to soothe a frazzled mind.
This is because the smell receptors in your nose communicate with the parts of your brain that store emotions and memories.
Aromatherapist Fran Johnson recommends using frankincense to unwind by massaging it into your skin.
“Frankincense essential oil has been used for thousands of years. Therapeutically it’s uplifting, while still helping to relax and calm the mind. When you apply it to your skin, it has the added benefit of firming and improving tone.”
Try Neal’s Yard Remedies’ new Frankincense Intense Lift Cream, £75 (nealsyardremedies.com).
Aromatherapy helps your nose communicate with the parts of your brain that create memories
MIND YOUR MAGNESIUM
When it comes to battling stress, magnesium is the magic mineral you need.
“This vital mineral is often called ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it can help us to feel calm and relaxed,” explains nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
“It is also thought that magnesium has a role in the normal function of the pineal gland which produces melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps us fall asleep.”
Try munching on magnesiumrich foods such as spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds and almonds to reap the stress-relieving benefits.
Clearspring Organic Roasted Tamari Pumpkin Seeds (£1.19, clearspring.co.uk) are an easy and tasty snack.