With all that is going on *gestures vaguely at everything* in the world, you would stand out for NOT feeling a little stressed. Not only is there a pandemic to deal with, but you also need to deal with everyday stressors like traffic, inflation, taxes, relationships, work (or not enough work), elderly parents, growing adult children… it is a lot. When it comes to de-stressing, time isn’t always on our side, and you may be tempted to simply pop a pill.
Instead, we’ve pulled together the most effective and scientifically proven natural stress relief tactics. Whether you’ve got ample time or feel like you don’t even have a second, we’ve got you covered.
WHEN TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE
A power nap
Maybe the thought of taking a nap is actually more stressful, but hear us out. By 2pm, most people feel a slump in energy. Most people grab a cup of coffee and push through it but… Research shows that a nap will actually lessen your stress and make you more alert and able to concentrate. It’ll also, strengthen your immune system and keep blood pressure in check. How long should you nap for? Let your schedule decide: if you only have 15 minutes to spare, curl up, but if you can take 45 minutes to really reset that’s even better. But beware of oversleeping – any more than an hour might leave you groggy!
IF YOU ONLY HAVE 15-MINUTES
Get into nature
Whether in nature, the suburbs or the urban jungle, walking has a big impact on your stress levels. A combination of rhythmic motion and change of scenery, just walking between rooms can distract you from whatever has you stressed. One study showed that people who took a 30-minute walk in nature or an urban setting had reduced cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and a lift in mood. But, as little as a 10-minute walk has known therapeutic benefits. (Read this to learn more)
Exercise or mindful movement
Exercise and movement release your feel-good hormones, lower cortisol levels and improve the way your body uses oxygen which, all together, help with stressful situations. If you’re not keen on breaking a sweat, look for mindful movement like Integrated Movement Routines (IMRs) which offer a whole-body workout working all of your muscles at the same time, balancing your body to help you stay active while also practising mindfulness. And, you only need 15-minutes.
What we thought of as a thankless job, turns out to have some real paybacks. As long as you are doing it mindfully, any repetitive chore can help with stress relief. Researchers found that students who washed dishes had enhanced states of mindfulness and more positive moods. If time is an issue, start small like organising your desk, tackle one cleaning task or use the time between laundry loads for your break.
DON’T EVEN HAVE 5-MINUTES?
We do it every second of every day, but most of us aren’t practising good breathwork – a skill that can make all the difference in your reducing stress levels. Alongside movement and meditation (we’ll chat more about this in the next point), breathwork is one of the most important (and fast acting) interventions to combat a build-up of stress. To check on your breathing ability and learn the power of breathing from your diaphragm, click here.
There are plenty of free meditation apps on the market that offer you guided meditations for any amount of time, even if you only have a few minutes to spare. Meditation has been linked to reduced stress levels and anxiety – and the more often you do it, the greater the results will be each time. Meditations are also fantastic for helping you sleep because we know how a bad night can just make your stress worse.
The power of music
If Grey’s Anatomy has taught us anything, it’s the power of a dance party. And, science agrees. Music therapy is a great way to relax – no matter where you are or what you are doing. Experts say that it decreases cortisol levels – and, in fact, music may well help people dealing with stress disorders like depression and anxiety. This is because the auditory cortex is linked to parts of your brain that are connected to the reward system, motor systems and centres for motivation and emotion. So, in the words of Cristina Yang, ‘Shut up! Dance it out!’
We’re all different, so some of these tactics might work for, but not for everyone. Pick a few depending on your schedule and where you are. Over a short while you’ll figure out what works for you, see which work for you. Stress is a killer, and as we get older, it’s even more important to manage it the best way we know how. Take some time out of your day – whatever you can give – to calm down and reset. The more you practice these techniques, the better the benefits and the faster they’ll help you reset your mind and de-stress.