5 practical ways to put stress in its place
Posted on 17 February 2017
If you dread Manic Mondays or often feel as if the weekend takes too long to arrive, stress may be playing a larger role in your daily life than you realise. We offer some practical, everyday tips that can help take the pressure off the daily grind.
Stress is such a commonplace reality for many of us living a fast-paced lifestyle that learning to cope with it has become an essential life skill. Prolonged bouts of stress can have damaging effects on the body and mind – many don’t even realise that their health and mood problems are being caused by the bad daily choices they make because of stress. While stress and bad lifestyles affect everyone differently, the most common physiological effects include:
- high blood pressure
- heartburn and acid reflux
- anxiety and depression
- breathing problems and chest pain
- body aches
Here are five simple ways to help you put stress in its place.
- Remind yourself to relax
Take a few minutes out of each day to get away from the causes of your stress, collect your thoughts and reflect. Exercises like yoga, pilates and tai chi are good options for helping to practise mindful breathing and relaxation techniques.
- Be kind to yourself
In moments of tension and high stress it’s easy for the mind to become flooded with negative thoughts that can make the situation worse. We are often hardest on ourselves, but would we be so tough on a friend or family member who was going through a tough time? Self-kindness and positive self-reinforcement will go a long way to safeguard against negative feelings. Remind yourself about your good qualities and take the time to your enjoy your favourite things, like listening to music, reading a good book or going for a walk in the fresh air.
- Take the time to enjoy a healthy breakfast
Getting a good start to your day includes nourishing your body with the fuel it needs to face the challenges ahead. Aim for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates to keep you fuller for longer: eggs on toast, muesli and yoghurt, or peanut butter and banana slices on wholegrain bread. Avoid quick fixes like sugar-laden cereals, pastries and doughnuts that will cause your blood sugar to spike and then decrease dramatically, resulting in sluggish energy before lunchtime. A balanced and nutritious breakfast will also encourage better food choices and improve your focus throughout the day, according to studies.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is often the first casualty of a stressed body and mind. Rest is essential for recovery after a long day and is an essential part of maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Lack of sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system, weight gain, depression and lack of concentration. Ensure you are relaxed in the evenings – avoid caffeine, excessive alcohol and any demanding tasks before bed. By aiming to go to bed at the same time every night you can help your body get into a predictable pattern of rest. If you feel that you are having chronic problems getting sleep and that it is having a negative impact on your health and stress levels, speak to your doctor.
- Get active
Physical exercise releases endorphins that help lift your mood and make you feel good about yourself. You don’t need to be a fit athlete in order to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Start small with 30-minute walks or bike-rides along your favourite routes while listening to music or an enlightening podcast or audiobook. Whatever exercise you do, make sure its what you enjoy. Give yourself time to get used to your new exercise routine and build up the duration and intensity when you feel you are ready.