Have a massage
It is important to consider participating in activities that will recharge you, and if you just want something peaceful that is completely stress-free then enjoying calming spa treatments should be right at the top of your list.
Felix Economakis from the Heath Therapies stresses the importance of doing an activity that will recharge you.
He says, “Consider activities which recharge you - this will vary between individuals as some are more 'active' rechargers (will play sports to unwind) and some will recharge best in a peaceful relaxing environment.
“In addition, nature, pets, good company, pampering and self-care all help recharge us and help put things back in perspective. Champneys can offer a range of treatments that most people would consider replenishing and recharging!”
We all know the physical benefits of exercising as it helps improve your physical condition and with fighting disease, but it’s also vital for maintaining your mental fitness as it can help reduce stress.
Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa and Dr Peter Petrie, who are the doctors at Your Doctor, said, “Exercising is a great way to deal with stress because it can help clear your mind, give you a chance to focus on something else and can release some of the intense emotion you’re feeling so that perhaps you will be able to look at the issue with a clearer head.”
Mike Gough from the junior doctor’s website What the Bleep explains how exercise helped him deal with stress.
He says, “When I started work as a doctor I found my life suddenly got very stressful all of a sudden, dealing with high pressure situations, varying shift patterns and it wasn't long before it started to impact on the rest of my life.
“I wasn't sleeping, I constantly had a headache and I was short tempered. I made it my mission to make sure I found ways to manage the stress. I found that going out for a run, or a bike ride 2-3 times during the week really helped me switch off.”
Many experts encourage people who are stressed to use breathing exercises to relieve stress as it can lower blood pressure and promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
Deborah Stone, the co-founder of the My Ageing Parent website, says breathing exercises can not only help people to relax or de-stress, but can help reduce respiratory problems.
Here Deborah Stone explains the different techniques you can use, “People often take much shallower breaths than they should, especially when stressed or anxious and also when lung capacity is limited.
“If you try to breathe more deeply, it will help you to relax and to breathe more efficiently. Sit straight and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. You should feel your stomach expand as you breathe in. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Keep repeating it, ideally for 10 minutes or longer if you can.
“Another breathing technique is particularly useful if you are having trouble sleeping. This time, breathe out through the mouth, so that the air you exhale make a whooshing noise. Then close your mouth and breathe in and hold your breath for a count of seven. Then breath out of the mouth again for a count of eight, making the same whooshing noise and repeat 10 times.”
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol are the most widely consumed psychotropic drugs worldwide and Your Doctor, who work closely with us at Champneys, say it is important to avoid consuming all three if you feel stressed.
“They may seem like things that would calm you but in actual fact caffeine and nicotine are stimulants so they will increase feelings of stress and alcohol is a depressant so can affect your outlook on a situation as well as adversely affecting sleep.”
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet with low-fat, high-fibre and carbohydrate-rich meals with lots of fruits and vegetables can help you keep your energy levels up and give you the nutrients you need to boost your immune system. Carbohydrates have also been found to produce serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us.
LEC Nutrition’s Laura Clark says it is vital to eat a balanced diet and to regulate your sugar level.
“Whilst food cannot claim to cure stress, it is worth noting the benefits of a regulated blood glucose (sugar) level. Large swings in blood glucose can cause irritability and poor, ‘reactive’ food choices which don’t go towards supporting our bodies at all. Regulated blood glucose levels can be achieved through aiming for a balance to your meals.
“This means some wholegrain carbs such as wholemeal pitta, bulgur wheat, quinoa or brown rice noodles put with some lean protein such as chicken, eggs, fish or seafood and plenty of crunch in the form of salad and veggies.
“Balanced eating will also encourage maximal uptake of the amino acid tryptophan which is needed for serotonin production. Serotonin will work to counteract the effects of raised cortisol levels.
“Stress also tends to cancel out willpower so design your office environment to make the best, healthiest choices the easiest to consume. What you see is what you eat and we don’t think as much as we think we do!”
Jo Travers, the owner of The London Nutritionist, also says it is important to get a balance of nutrients and shares some tips on how you can achieve this.
“Aim to get a balance of nutrients at meal times. Fill half your plate with veg or a mix of fruit and veg (for micronutrients and fibre); a quarter of your plate with carbohydrate (for energy); and a quarter with protein (for cells, the immune system and hormones). If you do this, you will very likely get everything your body needs. Try to have whole grains when you can (granary bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, beans etc.), and some plant-based proteins as well as meat and fish.
“Make as much time as you can to eat well, and when you haven’t got time to cook, make use of things like ready-chopped vegetables and ready cooked meat and fish that can be heated in a couple of minutes.”
Have a good routine
Following a de-stress routine is a great way to reduce stress. It is important to realise that when you start building your own routine everything on your list has to be something that really works for you as something that may work for a friend or family member may cause you more stress.
Your Doctor, says, “Stress can stop us sleeping well so try and have a good routine. Avoiding laptops and phones an hour before sleep.
“Prioritise having some “downtime” before going to sleep. Reading before bed may help you unwind. Having a bath can have a very soothing effect on our body and mind. Some say the sensation unconsciously takes our mind back to a time when we were in the womb. Following a regular routine is helpful.”
According to My Ageing Parent’s co-founder, Deborah Stone, mindfulness meditation can also help if you are feeling stressed.
“A study in in Los Angeles of people aged 55+ who had trouble sleeping were asked to follow a mindfulness programme. After six weeks, the participants showed improvements in their sleeping.
“People in this meditation group also saw improvements in terms of their levels of fatigue and depression. The findings suggest that ‘mindfulness meditation’ may be introduced to older adults as a short-term solution to assist with moderate sleep disturbances. Previous studies had shown that other types of mind-body exercise, such as tai chi, can also improve sleep.”
Talk to your friends or family
If you are feeling stressed then sometimes it can be easy to isolate yourself from your friends and family, but you should approach them with your problems and sit down and talk with them about everything you feel or experience. It is important not to think that you are bothering them because most probably, you are not.
Your Doctor’s Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa and Dr Peter Petrie, add, “Stress can stop us seeing a situation clearly and talking to someone else about what is wrong might help you see a situation with new eyes or help you find a solution. You can also stop pretending and therefore spend your energy on getting better.”
David Morris from Changing Minds UK, says, “Talking to family or friends is recommended. You can also seek support from your GP who will be able to give you more information about ways to manage stress. The Samaritans also offer a telephone support service on 08457 90 90 90.”
Start a ‘stress diary’
Sometimes writing things down can really help, and stress diaries are important for understanding the causes of stress as well as giving you an insight into how you react to stress.
Dominique, who runs True Stress Management, shares some tips for starting a diary, “Start by identifying your stressors and recording your physical and mental reaction to the situation. We recommend keeping a stress journal. This can either be a physical book or a note in your phone. Every time you find yourself feeling stressed, write down the date, the preceding event and how you reacted. That way, you'll get a better understanding of what triggers your body to become stressed as well as the symptoms that come along with it. That way you can link your symptoms directly to stress and work towards treating them.
“Once you know what causes you to be stressed and the way your body reacts, treating and managing the symptoms becomes much easier.”
Your Doctor, adds, “If you record every day how you are feeling and what happened during the day it may clarify which situations are causing you distress.
“Sometimes it isn’t instantly obvious about what makes us feel stressed or anxious so this may be a good way to reveal how we can take steps to reduce the stress in our life.”
Learn to say “no”
It is always nice to help people out, whether it is helping work colleagues or family and friends, but sometimes you can take on too much and this can affect your mental health.
Your Doctor say that it is really important that you start saying no, “Much of the stresses we have in our life are caused by too many responsibilities. Start saying ‘no’ to requests that are asking too much of you. You’d be surprised how much more ‘me’ time you will have just by doing this simple exercise.”
Get some fresh air
There are a great deal of benefits to be gained by going out and getting some fresh air. By going for a walk you can burn fat and mentally it can actually improve memory and academic performance.
For those of you with busy lives you could get off public transport a couple of stops before the office and walk the rest of the way or even park your car further away so you get some fresh air before work. If you are having a stressful day, then you should nip out and go for a brief walk.
Your Doctor explains why getting some fresh air can help relieve stress, “The Vitamin D boost you get from sunlight increases the production of serotonin in your body which will help you feel happy and lift your spirits.”
Visualise feeling calm
Your Doctor’s experts say that by visualising feeling calm can help you de-stress.
“Find a quiet space where you can sit down and focus on your breathing, your mood and yourself. Your body produces less of the stress hormone cortisol when your mind is involved in guided imagery.”
There are a number of visualisation techniques you can use to help you relax anytime. You can imagine you are in an outdoor place or somewhere you’ve been on holiday to help you unwind.
While you are visualising this “happy place” you can focus on colours, shapes, sounds or smells. You can even give this place a name so that you can use it to bring back the image anytime you are feeling stressed.
Talk to yourself in a positive way
It might seem strange to suggest that you talk to yourself, but it is something we all do and it really can help you to relax.
Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa and Dr Peter Petrie, add, “Talk to yourself the way you talk to your friends when you are trying to help them. We have a horrible habit of talking to ourselves in a negative way which can causes stress, depression and anxiety. Start positive self-talk and tell yourself why you’re worth it.”
Book an appointment with a GP
If you really are feeling overwhelmed by stress, then you should book an appointment to discuss your feelings with a fully-registered GP.
They will be able to help you through your anxiety and can suggest even more ways to help you relax.