Deborah Evans, Healthy Living Pharmacist provides her tips on reducing stress over the busy festive period:
The first step to reducing stress is to try and find out what is causing the problem; then do what you can to take control avoiding reaching for unhealthy ways to cope. There are a number of ways that you can feel in control and reduce stress, even if it feels like the cause is out of your control:
1. Feel Connected
It’s important to feel connected when we are feeling stressed as this can alleviate some of the negative feelings. ‘Feeling isolated will make the stress feel worse, therefore make the time to connect with people using your network of friends and family. It’s better when it’s more personal, this can be as simple as giving someone you care about a call rather than just text. It really is good to talk!’
2. Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Stress can be a time when we start reaching for our vices such as smoking, alcohol and snacking. However, this is just a short-term fix and won’t resolve the root of the problem. It can also have other damaging effects on our health which in turn only gives us something else to stress over! ‘Avoid unhealthy habits which you may think are a short-term fix, such as eating sugary foods or high fat snacks, smoking or drinking alcohol; instead have a good walk and a healthy meal’.
3. Do Something Good
‘Focus on other people by volunteering or doing someone a favour – it will make you feel so much better to help someone else.’ The act of doing something that we believe is selfless, turns out isn’t so selfless after all as it can help us feel better about ourselves! It can also put our troubles that we are stressing over back into perspective and help us realise what is important in life.
4. Make a List
If all else fails, make a list! You can’t go wrong, can you? If you’re feeling stressed or down about yourself or your life ‘Make a list of all the things that are good in your life right now and focus on them. It may be the obvious but try to stay positive, by writing down the positive things in your life it will help you stay positive’. You could also use this as an opportunity to weigh up the pros and cons of a situation and logic your blues away.
5. Use Lavender Oil
Think about some natural products that may be able to help you de-stress, ‘Use Lavender as a versatile calming oil – you could have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender or place a few drops on the pillow at night seems to help with sleep too’. The scent of lavender can be drawn into your amygdala neurons in the brain which plays a key role in processing emotions. Lavender oil has also been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure to place you in a relaxed state, making it the perfect relaxation and sleeping aid. Care’s Lavender Oil (£3.45) contains 100% Lavender Oil and is available from Asda Pharmacy, Sainsbury’s Pharmacy, Rowland Pharmacy and Independent Pharmacies.
Meditation truly has an intrinsic calming effect and joining a class that allows you to practice these methods may help: ‘join a class, especially something like yoga or meditation which can give you tools to reduce the impact stress might be having not only on your mind but also on your body’. If you can’t find a class or don’t have time for a class, why not simply take 10 minutes at home and practice some techniques you may find online or via a YouTube video.
7. Cut back on caffeine
You may find yourself consuming more caffeine than usual just to get you through the day when you are feeling stressed, however this can have an adverse effect. Whilst it may make you feel better immediately, it can then bring you down again as soon as the effect has worn off. ‘Cutback on caffeine in coffee, tea and cola, especially in the afternoon and evening. Instead a warm, milky drink or herbal tea such as chamomile or peppermint can help’
8. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is an essential for de-stressing as it produces endorphins which act as a natural pain killer. It can also improve your confidence and help you feel calmer. ‘Exercise regularly and relax before bedtime, avoiding work and the computer or social media before going to bed. Have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender and try gentle yoga or meditation to calm your mind. Focussing on your breathing can really help’
9. Regular Sleeping Hours
Lack of sleep is both a symptom and cause of stress and should be managed effectively. ‘Good sleep helps keep you healthy and able to cope with life’s ups and downs, so how do you ensure you get all the sleep you need? You could start by keeping regular sleep hours. Just as a routine works for babies and young children, it can work for grown-ups too, ensure you establish good bedtime habits to let your body and mind calm down’
10. Stop Comfort Eating
Comfort eating, or otherwise known as emotional eating is a way of suppressing our emotions. However, if we suppressing our feelings it only means that they will appear again another day and at some point, we will have to face them again. This can also influence our sleeping patterns: ‘don’t overindulge in alcohol or food, especially late at night, as this will disrupt your sleep pattern’.