women doing yoga

About stress and how you can manage yours

It’s normal to experience stress from time to time. In fact, in the right context, a bit of pressure can boost your motivation, focus and productivity. But when it exceeds your ability to cope or continues for a long time, pressure can tip over into stress, which can hamper your wellbeing.

What are the causes of stress?

Any life experience has the potential to create stress if your brain interprets it as a threat, especially if it’s something over which you feel you have little or no control, such as a redundancy or a relationship breakdown.

Having to deal with more than one challenge at the same time – for example, moving house as well as work related stress – is particularly likely to tip you over into the stress zone.

What are the signs of stress?

You may start to drink more alcohol, have trouble sleeping or change your eating habits. You might feel irritable and impatient, find it hard to concentrate, and you may also notice some physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension and dizziness.

How does stress affect your health?

Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking to excess, comfort eating and smoking can all impact on your health. And stress itself can directly affect your body. Under stress, your adrenal glands release a surge of hormones, and long-term exposure to these hormones has been connected to conditions including IBS, heart disease and lowered immunity, making you more susceptible to colds.

Stress can also put you at risk of depression, plus other mental and physical conditions.

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Short terms stress relief solutions

If you’re having a nightmare of a day, there are several ways to help overcome stress straight away and calm down before the pressure gets the better of you. Here are eight of our favourite speedy stress relief solutions to help you get on with your day.

Go for a walk

In this case, walking away from your problems could do you some good. Several studies have linked going for a relaxing stroll with lowered stress levels [1]. Walking around natural surroundings could be even better. According to one Japanese study [2], a walk through pine forests appeared to improve symptoms of depression and stress. However, if the woods are too far away and your closest open space is your garden or a local park, you’re in luck. Researchers [3] also found that the smell of fresh cut grass or a recently mowed lawn can also have a relaxing effect against stress.

Turn your phone off

Gone are the days when our phones were simply used to speak to people. Nowadays, we’re constantly connected to social media and work emails via our smartphones. In the long-run, this can worsen mental and emotional stress leaving us frustrated when we should be winding down. Evidence [4] suggests that continuously checking emails triggers anxiety and worry, so why not switch it off every once in a while?

Laugh away your troubles

They say laughter is the best medicine and based on recent studies, this could actually be true. So if you feel tension rising, put on a comedy, watch a few funny cat videos or listen to podcasts by your favourite comedians.

Get active

When you’re stressed, going for a run is probably the last thing on your mind. But putting on your trainers and heading out the door could be the key to easing your worries. Exercising prompts the brain to release chemicals that help to fight stress. Furthermore, studies have revealed that people who exercise on a regular basis tend to have less chance of experiencing anxiety.[5] If you don’t fancy jogging, try any physical activity you enjoy such as walking, cycling, yoga or dancing. Research has found that yoga in particular could be as effective for treating anxiety and depression as some antidepressants.[6]

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Have a cuddle

Sometimes all you need is a hug to make you feel better and a cuddle could be the key to easing stress. One study even showed that as well as helping you feel less stressed out, people who were hugged more often reported feeling more supported by those around them.[7]

Listen to your favourite song

Turning on the radio or putting on your favourite music can calm your nerves almost instantly. Research has shown that people reported that they felt less tense after listening to music [8] . Not just any old song will do though, try and pick something that you love as this seemed to have the strongest effect.

Chew some gum

Not only does it leave you with fresher breath, but a stick of chewing gum could be a fast-acting stress reliever. One study showed that people who chewed gum experienced less stress, less anxiety and felt that they performed better inside and outside of work[9]. Make sure it’s sugar free though, to keep your teeth healthy.

Try breathing exercises

In just a few minutes, this calming breathing technique can help make you feel less pressured or tense. Sit or stand with your feet hip-width apart. Then, breathe gently in through your nose counting steadily up to five. Next, breathe out of your mouth once again to the count of five. Repeat this for up to five minutes and you should feel much more relaxed.

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[1] http://www.jpsychores.com/article/0022-3999(92)90072-A/abstract [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17055544 [3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/6094786/Feeling-stressed-Then-go-mow-the-lawn-claims-research.html [4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/22/psychologists-warn-constant-email-notifications-are-toxic-source/ [5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743505002331 [6] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002239561500206X [7] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614559284 [8]http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019745561530006X [9] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666312000943