8 stress-busting tips for everyday life
Everyday life feels different right now, and that’s understandably causing a lot of people to feel more stressed. While higher levels of stress are expected, there are some things we can all do to relax and ease the pressure.
1. Be positive
It’s easy to slip into negative thinking when you are stressed and even small problems can cause anxiety. We can all think of situations where a small event tipped us over the edge because we were already overwhelmed by other things. With an effort, though, you can look at it the other way round.
“Try to be ‘glass half full’ instead of ‘half empty’,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at Lancaster University. He suggests writing a list at the end of each day of all that went well or was enjoyable and taking a moment to consider things for which you should be grateful that you may have forgotten. This is particularly powerful in times of national crisis as it reminds us all to focus on the things that are within our control.
2. Avoid information overload
In times of crisis, over-consumption of the news and social media can have a real detrimental affect on good mental health.
It’s important to stay connected but controlling what you consume while using devices will help to reduce stress and anxiety. Some tactics we suggest are only reading reputable news websites, consuming news just once a day and editing your social media feeds so you’re only following accounts that make you feel positive.
There are a lot of coronavirus myths being shared on social media and reading false truths only makes stress worse.
3. Have a cuppa
Something as simple as having a cup of tea can lower your stress level, studies have found. Aside from the comforting effects of a strong, hot brew, scientists at University College London found test subjects who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks had less of the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies. They were able to destress twice as quickly as a control group given a placebo. This is a simple act we can all can do in the current situation to help manage our stress.
4. Hit the sack
Stress is one of the most common causes of sleep disruption, according to Göran Kecklund, associate professor at the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University. He says stress is part of everyday life and it is normal to experience occasionally disrupted sleep while under pressure.
“The dangerous situation appears when stress is causing chronic sleep disturbances,” he says. “Chronic stress is, in itself, a cause of many diseases, for example, coronary heart disease, and poor sleep is believed to be one of the key mechanisms linking long-lasting stress to severe health problems.”
These include high blood pressure and a compromised immune system. To counteract stress, Professor Kecklund first suggests looking at your work-life balance. “Everybody needs time for recovery and relaxation. The type of activity in itself is probably not important – as long as it is stimulating but not perceived as demanding.”
This is particularly important right now when the lines between work and home are so blurred. It’s easy to check emails at night when you’re working from home full-time but we strongly advice you try not to. Work-life balance has never been more important and taking time to switch-off will help when it comes to reducing stress.
5. Make time for you
Take some you time. Allocate one or two nights a week for activities you enjoy. Take up a new hobby, return to an old one, play online quizzes with your friends or have a regular indoor ‘date night’ with your partner. Make the most of this time and recognise you deserve and need time for yourself, no matter how different daily life feels at the moment.
6. Take a different view
Chris Kresser, a specialist in ancestral health and paleo nutrition, advocates looking at stress positively and reframing your attitude to make it work for you.
He emphasises treating threats like challenges and looking to see if there is a long-term opportunity in something that initially feels stressful. Being furloughed can be used as an opportunity to re-evaluate whether you are doing what you really want to do and if there are other work opportunities you would rather pursue.
He also suggests taking a long-term view. “Ask yourself whether what you’re upset about will matter in a month, a year or a decade,” he advises. “Will this event matter? Will you even remember it?”
7. Devote time to helping others
When you feel down, do some good. Donate to charity, offer to help a vulnerable neighbour with groceries or pop something in the food bank box the next time you’re in the supermarket.
“Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University. “The more you give, the happier and more resilient you feel.”
8. Enjoy the fresh air
That being active is good for us is hardly news. Keeping fit protects us against a whole raft of diseases, but did you know it also helps our mental wellbeing?
Something as simple as going out for a walk can help ease mild depression and minimise anxiety. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the body which help bolster positive feelings. Make the most of your allocated exercise time by getting some fresh air walking outside. Or if you’re isolating, do some exercise in the garden.
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