10 ways to reduce stress

Your pesky hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: ‘send out the stress hormones’! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, where your heart rate races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. But most of the time you’re not in imminent peril but instead stress and anxiety are at play. However, if left unchecked, stress can give you headaches, insomnia, upset your digestive system, disrupt your menstrual cycle and increase your blood pressure. But thankfully there are lots of simple, easy ways to manage stress; below are just ten.

1. Exercise

Moving your body and putting it under physical stress can be one of the best ways to relieve mental stress. Once the endorphins hit and blood is pumping around your body, it can help reduce anxiety and leave you with a greater self-gratitude and awareness of your mind and body. Anything from HIIT, cycling to a walk in the park. The repetitive movements create a familiar and comforting rhythm as you become more relaxed one step at a time.     

2. Eat Well

Nourish your body by fuelling it with all the good stuff. A sugary snack, or quick pick me-up is conveniently accessible; but by ensuring your body has the correct nutrients and vitamins, will help ultimately make you feel better and relieve stress. I often make myself a simple green juice consisting of spinach/kale, apple, banana, yoghurt, flax seeds and almond milk – plus you can’t even taste the greens and my body thanks me for it!

3. Immerse yourself in nature 

Nature’s benefits are endless, but its soundscape is captivating and rich in delights. Each noise contains its own personal signature, from the bees, birdsong, leaves rustling and breeze in the air. There is something comforting in grounding yourself in the earth and appreciating the simple joys in life. Going out into nature regularly and being able to tune into one’s senses to the songs of the wild is wonderfully uplifting and restorative. Even listening to the natural symphony on your phone can feel harmonious to the mind and body.

4. Listen to music

Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, it can also lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol – the hormone linked to stress. For me, the opposite is also true, turning up the volume on your favourite album and allowing your body and mind to feel it out. Have a little boogie, be transported just for a little while. 

5. Talk it out 

Yes, we’ve all heard this before. But talking to a friend or family member can help you to gain a new perspective on the situation and make the big problems seem smaller. By voicing your worries and stresses it allows your brain to organise your thoughts and makes everything seem more manageable. 

6. Meditate

You don’t have to become a Buddhist monk to practice effective and simple meditation. Using apps/guidance such as Calm & Headspace ‘practicing’ mindfulness can help us to recognise when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics and take a pause from that just for a little while. By simply being, and bringing the attention to the breath, noticing when our mind wanders and refocusing our thoughts even for 2-3 minutes can instantly make you feel calmer, and more aware of your mental and physical state. 

7. Write it down

Start a diary and just write. No expectations, boundaries or intention of any readers – just let your mind dictate what ends up on the paper. In the same way that talking to someone helps to visualise your problems, by releasing the stress onto paper – it is out and allows you to reflect on your worries. I like to journal at the end of the day, it’s a great reflective exercise and it also helps me to wind down for a good night’s sleep.

Linked is the Independent’s list of best notebooks so you can start journaling

8. Get a good night’s sleep

Prioritise rest and restoration and establish a relaxing and regular night-time routine. The saying that ‘there is nothing a good night’s sleep can’t fix’ contains elements of truth. By resetting your body and mind, allowing the worries to float away – the morning will come and then a whole new day presents itself to you.

9. Reframe your mindset

Things can go wrong all the time, unexpected challenges arise and relationships change but by trying to turn those misadventures into a wider philosophy of life, one to help you get through the stressful situations and come out smiling, or at the very least, no worse off than before. It isn’t a philosophy for life-changing events, but for everyday hiccups, challenges and misfortunes. It allows us to stop and reflect on the moment as it’s happening and reframe it into something more palatable. 

10. B R E A T H E

We do it all day, every day, and yet we often forget the healing powers of deep breathing. By slowing down your heart rate and lowering blood pressure, breathing deeply relieves stress. Simply inhale through your nose and then exhale through your mouth and repeat. Finding a quiet place to be by yourself can help but just closing your eyes and taking the gaze inwards has the same effect.

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