Last week we started exploring the effects stress has on sleep and we offered some ways in which to reduce stressors when it comes to going to sleep; namely, meditation or mindfulness, effects of caffeine and the importance of taking time out. But there is plenty more you can do to counter the stress reactions not just on your ability to sleep but the effect it’ll have on your day to day life.
We’re told exercise is good for us for a number of reasons. It helps keep our bodies flexible and mobile, it reduces the effect of diseases, cancer and other health conditions and it actually has proven ability to affect our moods. Regular exercise is said to reduce fatigue, improve moods and induce happiness and generally improves our cognitive function. Problem is the world of exercise is a mind field so if it’s something you’re looking to start up it’s likely to be experimental but rest-assured there is bound to be SOMETHING you’ll like. It might be just a daily 15 minute walk at a gentle pace (clear air, clear head), it could be yoga, a local netball team, a love for the cross-trainer, resistance training, hockey, rollerblading or even skateboarding. But when it comes to stress busting THE best kinds of exercise is something that gets your heart pumping. The NHS say this could be a brisk walk, cycling, water aerobics and even pushing the lawn mower! Other aspects of stress busting exercise you may like to try are: aerobics, tai-chi, martial arts and kickboxing- martial arts and kickboxing are great ways to release tension and frustration in a healthy, controlled way. We know it can be tough to get out and about when things are trying and more so when we seem to get up and get home in the dark so buddy up with someone to attend a class with or find some videos you can do at home (we’ll promote some on Facebook over the next week).
What we eat can also impact our moods. We talked about caffeine last week and how it can actually make us feel more stressed and anxious as well as its long lasting effects but did you know that high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates have similar effects? Yet when we’re short on time, feeling under pressure or tired all we want to do is break out the junk food, coffee and full fat coke- you are not alone! As we know moderation is key so of course it never hurts to have these things occasionally, rather, it’s about breaking the daily habit. We published an article on antioxidants which are natural chemicals found in foods that can alleviate the effects of free radicals- take a look at the article for the full uptake. To refresh, increase your intake of:
- Red, purple and blue grapes
- Red berries (e.g. raspberries and strawberries)
- Dark green veggies
- Sweet potatoes and orange vegetables
- Tea (mostly green tea)
- Whole grains
Seasonal is best, so I highly recommend referring to this super useful guide from the BBC Good Food site to finding out what food is at it’s best! But did you know that chocolate is actually good for combating stress? So go on, treat yourself but only to the highest concentrate you can. The higher the % of the cocoa solids, the better it is! Hotel Chocolat, have a fantastic 100% range which is the best you can get and if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate (like me), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Why not bake your own treats? The advantages are great: focusing on a task will aid in distracting you from stressors, you’ll know exactly what you’re consuming (and can cook with higher concentrated chocolate- also reduce any sugar requests by 20%) and you get a fantastic reward at the end of it.
Other ideas for de-stressing:
- Have a laugh- book to see a comedy show or watch a movie you know is funny. Studies have proven that when we laugh we release endorphins which is the stress busting hormone! This hormone is also released when we eat chocolate and exercise!
- Listen to music- create a playlist of ‘I don’t give a f**k’. When things are particularly tough, put your headphones in or turn it up, have a dance or just enjoy. P!nk So What surely has to go on that!
- Talk to someone- sometimes just getting out there in the ether or setting the world to rights can have euphoric effects. They may also be able to provide ideas and solutions to things that are troubling you
- Drink Green Tea- ok so it take a while to get past the taste but it’s likely to be something you’ll get use to. I’d recommend Twinings pyramid Green Tea, Jasmine or Loose leaf which isn’t as bitter as the infused bags. You could also try adding a spoon of honey too until you get use to it.
- Create a moodboard- even if it’s just an A4 sheet, cram it full of pictures or things and people that make you happy and keep it by your desk, bedside and even in the car it you want to. Whenever you’re feeling down or particularly stressed, pull it out or look up and take a look, I’ll bet you can’t help but smile.
- Make a plan- Plan a weekend, day, afternoon or even just an hour in the diary just for you and something YOU want to do. Maybe a manicure, play tennis, see a friend, shopping (they don’t call it retail therapy for nothing), cocktails, read, spa etc. whatever it is you want to do, having something to look forward to can make all the difference.