Reduce your stress levels with these 15 simple tips
Stress can come from a variety of sources – work, relationship problems, family drama; it's normal to feel stressed sometimes. But stress levels are on the rise – in 2013, almost 300 girls aged 15 to 19 were admitted to hospital in the UK suffering from stress (1).
It's true that talking therapy can really help, but if you're looking for easy ways to reduce your stress levels right now, you've come to the right place. Our 15 simple tips will help you de-stress, relax and be at one with the universe again – altogether now, deep breath...
#1. Get active
Admit it, when you're stressed, all you want to do is sit in front of the TV eating chocolate digestives, or curl up in a ball in bed. But get into the habit of exercising whenever you feel stressed and you'll notice you benefit from mental clarity and a mood boost. So next time your boss leaves you feeling aggravated, tackle the problem head on – get your running shoes on and head for the park. Exercise makes you feel strong, giving you the confidence you need to handle things. It can also be a great way to get some alone time after a busy day at the office.
#2. Have a cuppa
We know that too much caffeine isn't good news, but did you know that drinking black tea can actually help to reduce stress? Tea can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol (2) and increase how relaxed you feel.
#3. Have fun between the sheets
Did you know that sex can decrease physical symptoms associated with stress, such as high blood pressure or tension headaches (3)? Watching porn doesn't have the same effect; so find your partner and prepare to de-stress the easy way; as if you needed an excuse!
#4. Banish unhealthy habits
We've all been guilty of turning to caffeine, alcohol, smoking or even chocolate after a stressful; day at work – it's what is known as 'avoidance behaviour.' It's actually more common in men than in women, as women are more likely to seek emotional support from friends when stressed. Whilst you might think that downing several pints of beer or chain smoking will make you feel better, all it does is provide temporary relief; it's really no better than putting your head in the sand. It won't solve your problems.
In order to feel better, you need to tackle the cause of your stress head on, preferably in a sober state of mind. Looking after your body and mind by reducing your alcohol consumption or quitting smoking can help you to handle stress better.
#5. Give something back
If you're stressed to the max, it's easy to feel depressed and helpless, and to forget that there are people out there less fortunate than yourself. But by spending time helping others, for example by volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping at an animal shelter, you'll become more resilient. This can really help to put your problems in perspective, and you'll find the more you give, the less stressed and happier you feel. If volunteer work isn't possible for you right now, you can still make a difference. Do a small favour for someone every day – it can be anything from helping an elderly person cross the road to giving the homeless man on the corner some spare change.
#6. Manage your time better
We all wish we had a little more time, so we often try to multi-task, at work and at home. But multi-tasking often creates more stress and can actually kill productivity, as you're focused on several tasks at once rather than giving your all to one. Instead of working longer hours to ensure you have time to get stuff done, get your work-life balance in check and organise your time better. By prioritising your work, you'll focus on the tasks that really need to be done. Accept that work will always keep coming, so there will always be a new to-do list. By focusing on the most important things and worrying about the rest later, you'll find you're more productive.
#7. Embrace positivity
When you're late for work, your car won't start, your bus pass has run out and your bank account is overdrawn, it can be all too easy to focus on the negatives – what's positive about that? By spending some time every day focusing on the little, positive things and the things you're grateful for, you can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Even naturally pessimistic people can become more positive; it's all about changing your perspective.
#8. Go for a walk
We know it's tempting to slump in front of 'The Apprentice' when you're stressed out, but get up off the sofa and go for a walk and you'll feel better, we promise! Walking can be just as effective a form of exercise as running, and you'll soak up vitamin D just by being outside.
#9. Get some 'me' time
Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe (4). Over 5 million members of staff in the UK work an average of 7.5 hours of overtime every week – and the numbers in London are even higher. But whilst all this extra time spent at work might be good for your wallet, it's bad for your social life. When we don't spend enough time doing things we enjoy, we often feel depressed. Try to set aside a couple of nights during the week for 'me' time. Don't feel pressured to work overtime or cover shifts at work. These nights are your time to relax, head for a workout at the gym, socialise with friends or even enjoy a dance class – whatever makes you happy.
#10. Set yourself challenges
In order to deal with stress, you need to be confident and in control. By setting yourself new challenges and goals for yourself, you're working on your confidence and taking control of your own life. The challenges could be anything – bungee jumping, taking part in Tough Mudder, running a marathon or even learning a new language. Learning new things arms you with knowledge, making you much more likely to actively take part in life rather than spending all your free time as a passive bystander.
#11. Take a social media break
There's no denying that Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are a great way to keep up with how friends and family are doing – sharing photos, status updates and links means you can be in constant communication. But spending all your free time scouring your news feed and looking at photos of friends can make you unhappy and stressed. When you're constantly comparing your life to how others are doing, that can add pressure.
So take a break from social media every so often; for a day, a week, a month or even longer. You can deactivate your Facebook account without losing any information, or simply set yourself a fixed period of time to avoid using it. Delete the app from your phone and log out on your desktop PC and tablet to avoid temptation. Some time away from social media can really help to put things in perspective.
#12. Be more social
No, we're not talking about social media, but real-life socialising. They say 'a problem shared is a problem halved,' and it's true that by talking to friends and family about your stresses and worries, you can feel better. Ensuring you have a good support network means you'll always have someone to talk to when something is stressing you out. Don't cancel that coffee with a friend just because you need to catch up on work; schedule time for socialising as it's an excellent way to boost your mood and relieve stress.
#13. Get a massage
Enjoying an aromatherapy massage can help to alleviate tense muscles in your back, neck and shoulders, but did you know that it can also help to lower your stress levels? A study published in 2008 revealed that massage reduced production of cortisol and improved psychological well-being (5).
Meditation helps you to feel calmer and can reduce feelings of stress – spending time focusing on your breathing can leave you feeling more relaxed. It's easy to fit regular meditation into even the busiest day.
#15. Have a nap
There's a reason why napping during the day feels SO good. Napping reduces cortisol levels, leaving you feeling less stressed out. A study published in 'Brain Behaviour and Immunity' in 2011 showed that cortisol levels decreased after a 30-minute nap (6). Napping can also boost your energy levels and mental alertness; just make sure you set your alarm as 20 to 30 minutes is the optimum nap length.
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