Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you – and sometimes, it can all get a bit too much. And with four out of five adults admitting to suffering from stress during a typical week, it’s more than likely to affect us all at some point.
Here, we’re sharing some useful advice designed to help us to manage stress and feel calm in next to no time…
give meditation a whirl
Hopefully now we can all agree meditation is not a load of mumbo jumbo – in fact, it’s been scientifically proven to help us deal with stress, as well as improving our sleep and eating patterns. One recent study found that meditation bolsters the brain chemicals and hormones that help us regulate stress, as well as lowering our blood pressure. And with so many meditation and mindfulness apps now available, it’s never been easier to unwind on the go (we love Calm and Headspace).
practise your sun salutations
You’ve heard it time and time again, but practising yoga really can chill us out, as well as getting us limber. Plenty of research suggests yoga reduces stress and anxiety, with a new study measuring cortisol levels (our ‘stress’ hormone) after people signed up for a yoga course. Those who took part noticed a major decrease in cortisol, anxiety and depression afterwards – pretty impressive. Plus, it’s an excuse to splash out on some fancy gym kit, right?
prioritise those ZZZs
It’s official – we’re not getting enough sleep. While experts recommend a solid eight hours a night, the average person in the UK gets just six hours and 19 minutes a night. Adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those sleeping more, and when we’re stressed we tend to suffer from disrupted sleep – leading to a vicious cycle. Annoying, right? To boost your chances of a good night’s sleep, the team at Mental Health UK recommend cutting down on caffeine (especially in the evening), avoiding too much food or alcohol late at night, ensuring your bedroom is dark and quiet and ditching the TV in your bedroom. A sleep pattern – going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time – can help too. Happy snoozing…
Some say charity begins at home. This week, we say it begins in the bedroom – with your mattress. To support Mental Health Awareness week, we’re donating £5 to Mental Health UK with every mattress purchase made.
When we’re stressed it’s tempting to reach for sugary convenience foods, but the best thing you can do is eat regular, nutritious meals, according to Mental Health UK. Eating well – and regularly – means we’re able to ward off dips in blood sugar that can leave us feeling cranky and tired, worsening stress symptoms. It’s probably wise to cut back on the booze, too. Sorry. While it can help us deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
pick up a book
If the last time you leafed through a novel was during your GCSEs, here’s a reason to resume the habit – studies have shown that reading for even just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to two-thirds. Why? Because when we concentrate on a story, our mind is distracted from our own problems – clever, huh? In fact, it works so well – easing tension in the muscles and heart – that scientists reckon it’s one of the fastest ways to unwind there is.
sweat it out
If yoga’s not for you, there’s something out there that is – and the benefits are so great, it’s definitely worth figuring out what it is. They don’t call exercise ‘meditation in motion’ for nothing. Working out produces endorphins (chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers) and improves our ability to sleep – both pretty useful when it comes to tackling stress. Another bonus is it can improve our mood and self-confidence, which is easily dented by stress. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can bring about positive effects. Time for a spot of tennis?
sign up for a massage
Yes that’s right, we’re ordering you to enjoy a massage (we’re nice like that). Why? It’s down to that pesky cortisol again. Massages reduce cortisol which helps to reduce blood pressure and boost our immune system. And the good news is, even a 15-minute chair massage can do the trick in alleviating stress. As a double whammy, massages help us sleep better too. People who have them regularly tend to spend more time in the deep stage of sleep – which is the most restorative stage, FYI.
put that blimmin’ phone down
Chances are, you have a smartphone – maybe you’re even reading this on one. But experts are warning that spending too much time on them can actually be causing stress and anxiety, as well as disrupting our sleep (the bright light of our smartphone can suppress our body’s release of melatonin, the sleep hormone). They’re even causing us stress when we’re not using them – a study on young people found 60% felt very agitated when separated from their phones. The solution? Mental Health UK suggest getting stuck into a creative hobby when you feel yourself reaching for another meaningless Instagram scroll – anything that engages our creativity can help us manage stress and live in the moment. Who knows, maybe you’ll turn out to be the next Tracey Emin…