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We all suffer from stress from time to time. For most of us life is very busy. At other times a particular circumstance or life event causes a lot of tension and anxiety. None of us is immune to it, so what are the best ways to relieve stress?
As a trained yoga teacher and confirmed stress head, this is a subject I have given a lot of thought to. If I allow tension to build up I suffer sleeplessness, headaches, a lack of concentration and I feel generally anxious and miserable. So, no different to anyone else then!
Spotting the signs
In my experience, recognising the early signs that you are suffering from stress is important. When I feel I am running around like a lunatic just to stay in the same place, reaching for one too many glasses of wine at the end of a busy day and comfort eating bags of crisps I know it is time to consciously relax.
Stress can create real physical symptoms that can be quite distressing. For example, you can experience chest pain, insomnia, palpitations, stomach aches and indigestion, dizziness and forgetfulness.
Key techniques to relieve stress
Here are some key techniques I use to relieve stress that really work.
A sign of anxiety can be shallow, rapid breathing. For some people, this can work itself into a full blown panic attack.
A simple way to calm your mind and your body is to take some slow, deep breaths. If you can sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes it helps, but you can practice this technique sitting on a noisy bus if you have to. Count your breath in as one, your breath out as two, the next breath in as three, all the way up to ten. Then repeat at least three or four times. You can follow the breath in this way for several minutes as a form of meditation.
Talking of which, a regular meditation practice isn’t as hard as it sounds. When you are stressed, it can feel really hard to stop your mind whizzing. If you are starting out, I recommend using an app – I have a post on this here. Meditation can reduce agitation and increase your concentration levels too. You can find a full list of the benefits of meditation here.
Move to relieve stress
The benefits of exercise, whatever you choose to do, aren’t exaggerated. Movement and exercise is fantastic for stress relief. When you exercise, you release endorphins into your system. These relieve pain, create a sense of calm and lift your mood. Endorphins aren’t known as feel good hormones for nothing.
Exercise also relieves muscular tension and eases joint pain. I like a nice, brisk walk or a good yoga session. Mr S enjoys a cycle. I am not a runner, but I am told the endorphins released by a run create a natural high – maybe I should take it up!
Fresh air and daylight (especially in the winter months) are really beneficial to your mental health. A walk round the block or, even better, in the woods or by the coast is a brilliant stress buster. Gardening or getting out into nature can massively relieve stress and lift your spirits.
When I was office bound during the week, I made a point of parking 10 minutes away from the office and having a brisk walk in. I can’t tell you how much better I felt for doing this. It can feel like an effort to walk somewhere rather than driving, but you will reap the benefits of being outdoors.
I have a friend who keeps horses. Her primary reason for taking on the expense and commitment of a horse is the opportunities they provide to get outside whatever the weather, which she says is massively beneficial for her mental health. She lavishes her time and money on them, including getting bespoke stables built by Vale Stables.
Now that we have a dog we have to walk twice a day, I finally understand why this is so important to her.
Write a list
The act of writing down all the things you have to do, or even the things that are bothering you, can make you feel more organised and in control. I totally believe in the power of writing a list, and usually have several on the go!
Practice positive thinking
We all know somebody who appears to be a ‘glass half empty’ person. They tend to see obstacles in every situation rather than opportunities. But it is possible to change the way you think and cultivate a more positive way of thinking that will help you to cope with the situations that might bring you stress.
I have been reading a lot about Wayne Dyer recently, and listening to him on You Tube. He said, ‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’ He suggested saying and writing positive affirmations such as:
I know I am not alone.
I have faith that all is for good.
I give no energy to the negative because I know all is in divine order.
Whatever makes you stressed and unhappy, write a positive affirmation and try saying it every night before you sleep. Write it on a post it and stick it on the fridge or the mirror!
If you are feeling stressed or anxious, a problem shared is a problem halved, as the old saying goes. Arrange to meet up with friends, suggest a drink with colleagues, give a family member a phone call. Even if you don’t talk about how you feel, connecting with others can distract you from your own issues.
Laughter really is the best medicine. In fact there is some research showing that laughter boosts the immune system as well as reducing stress. But you might not feel like laughing if you are suffering from stress. Do as Norman Cousins did and laugh yourself well with a funny book, TV programme or film.
If you have ever had a good belly laugh or laughed so much tears ran down your cheeks, you will know how much tension it can release!
What are your most effective ways to relieve stress?