Stress! It affects us all at one time or another and some days it just feels relentless. There are a few ways in which you can begin to reduce stress, however. Begin by trying a few of these 5 things.
Talk to people
We know that humans are social animals but, for some reason, when we are stressed the first thing we do is isolate ourselves. For example, with big deadlines looming at work you might be tempted to do some overtime and turn down an offer to go out with your colleagues after work on Friday. But, in reality, it is the socialising which makes you more productive.
The next time you are stuck on a problem at work and plan to eat at your desk, push yourself to go out for lunch with a friend or colleague instead. At first you will feel nervous about how you are going to get through your difficult task, but try to let go and enjoy yourself. Once you get back to your desk, take notice of how much more relaxed you are as you get on with work. I can guarantee you will be more focused and clear-headed.
The other benefit of talking to people is that they can help you see your problems from a different angle. We sometimes feel concerned about “dumping our problems” on another person. But remember how you feel when you are the listener? Many times you feel privileged that the person feels they can share these intimate thoughts with you, and that is more likely what your friend is thinking. Talking things through with another person always leads to less stress.
Sometimes it feels like the only things we read these days are text messages and Facebook updates with, perhaps, a smattering of online news articles. We’ve reduced our reading diet to one of quick snippets of information that have been filtered by levels of a ‘need to know’ basis. Gone are the days of sitting in a cozy chair on a rainy day with a book and a cuppa. But why? It’s as if we feel that we don’t deserve this kind of down time in our lives anymore. But, crucially, we absolutely do!
We need this more than ever as an antidote to the busyness that occupies our days. Reading is a good way to retrain your brain from the ADD-like behaviour that is becoming common from constantly multi-tasking on multiple devices. It also gets you learning new things, thinking in different ways, and increasing your vocabulary. But, most importantly, when you sit and read for 15-30 minutes at a time, it gives your body time to relax and reboot. Blood pressure lowers and breathing becomes regular. Choose something you really love be it fiction or non-fiction and let your mind be transported far away for a time. You are likely to find you can focus better on tasks thereafter.
Learn to meditate
Although meditation is an ancient practice, recently it has been all over the news as people are beginning to take note of the benefits. There have been so many studies published to show how meditation affects the brain that it would be difficult to dismiss the practice as one that is ineffective in stress reduction.
Knowing only a few basic techniques can be beneficial. Yet we often have this notion that meditation is difficult or that you need to have complete silence to empty your mind. But meditation is not about emptying your mind. It is about recognising the myriad of thoughts passing through without engaging with them. Cultivating this ability through meditation is how you reduce stress.
Get more sleep
There are some who believe the whole of our modern society is sleep deprived. And the way in which we often feel like we are sleepwalking through the day is a tell tale sign. If you are using coffee or other stimulants just to keep yourself going you are adding to the problem.
Firstly, that is a sign that you are definitely not getting enough sleep and, secondly, the caffeine in your system is actually contributing to your sleeplessness. Try and find some ways in which you can foster a good sleeping routine by cutting down on caffeine, making your sleep environment inviting, and keeping away from computer screens and phones in the evening. Regular exercise also promotes deeper quality sleep and you might even experiment with things like essential oils or relaxing music. A well rested brain is a less stressed one.
Exercise is great for your physical well being, there is no doubt about that. But, let’s not forget the mental health benefits of exercise as well. Everything is connected and often exercise is prescribed as a part of a plan for low level depression because of the endorphins it releases.
These endorphins, or “happy chemicals”, in the brain can reduce stress levels while you are exercising, but they also have a longer term effect. Regular exercise is key to reducing your stress levels and helping you deal with all that life throws at you. So, hop on your treadmill for half an hour after work, go for a walk at lunchtime, or take up an exercise class or two.
By trying out one or two of these techniques you should find that the way in which you deal with stress gets better. Choose one that appeals to you and give it a few weeks to see how you feel.