5 ultimate ways to reduce stress
Did you know there’s good stress and bad stress? Good stress – known as ‘eustress’ – is something many of us experience; it takes the form of small bouts of stress that can help us to perform better and motivate us to achieve our goals.
But then there’s bad stress. This type of stress can impact our ability to socialise or sleep, make us anxious and physically unwell. It affects a lot of people: according to the Health and Safety Executive, a staggering 12.5 million working days were lost in 2016/17 due to people suffering from stress, depression or anxiety.
If you think you suffer from bad stress, there are ways you can control it. Let’s take a look at five of them...
1. Up your exercise
There’s a strong link between physical and mental health and it has a lot to do with the group of ‘feel good’ hormones known as endorphins. If you’ve ever felt a rush after exercise, it’s because our brains are releasing more endorphins into our bodies. And it’s these endorphins which make us feel happier and sleep better, in turn lowering our stress levels.
You don’t need to exercise intensely to reap the benefits; a walk in the park or gentle jog is enough to boost your mood. And if you can combine exercise with the great outdoors – which is also known to alleviate stress-related symptoms – then you’ll feel all the more better for it!
2. Cut your caffeine intake
Can’t function in the morning without a caffeine fix? Drinking too many cups of coffee and tea can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing. This is because a caffeine ‘high’ is usually followed by the notorious caffeine crash, which can make us feel lethargic and agitated. But also – and perhaps surprisingly – caffeine can actually increase the body’s levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
You don’t have to give up caffeine altogether (unless you want to) as you’ll see benefits simply by cutting your daily intake by half. Replace with fruit juices, naturally caffeine-free herbal teas or water, the latter of which is essential for maintaining proper body and brain function. The NHS recommends six to eight glasses of fluid a day.
3. Learn to say ‘no’
Saying ‘no’ to someone – a boss, colleague, family member or friend – is something many of us struggle with. No one wants to let others down, but if constantly agreeing to things in order to please people is stressful for you, it’s time to prioritise. So, if one of your work friends asks for help on a project, but you’re already snowed under with your own work, tell them you can’t – explain your reasons and offer a compromise. If they’re a good friend who respects you, they’ll understand.
In a similar vein, stress often derives from us worrying unnecessarily about things we can’t control (like the traffic). Switch up your mindset so that you accept the things you can’t control, and change the things you can control.
4. Make healthy food swaps
Food is fuel for our body and brain, so it’s understandable that eating healthily helps us to stay happy and keep stress to a minimum. You needn’t drastically overhaul your diet; instead, look at switching certain meals or foods for healthier alternatives. For instance, for breakfast, swap sugar-laden cereal for fresh fruit mixed with a delicious pot of protein-packed Ísey Skyr*. For lunch, try preparing a fresh tuna or chicken salad instead of a sandwich. And for dinner, try whizzing up your own pizza base using cauliflower.
Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat. Just remember: everything in moderation – it’s all about balance!
5. Join a yoga class
With our minds and bodies closely linked, signing up to a yoga class could help to keep stress at bay. Yoga is a mind-body practice that brings together elements of meditation, relaxation, physical poses and controlled breathing to help calm the mind. Forming different poses can lower blood pressure and your heart rate, as well as stress levels. Choose to book an evening class to help you wind down after a long day in the office, or an early morning session to ensure your day gets off to a great start.
Do you have any stress-busting tips of your own?
*You can now buy Ísey Skyr from the fresh food coolers at Aldi stores across the UK – view the full list here.