Eight ways to reduce stress
I have had a few people message me recently about ways in which to reduce their stress, so I wanted to share eight ways I have learnt and experienced in reducing my own stress.
I think most of you know my story and personal history with stress. I worked for almost ten years as an events manager in a corporate company based in the city. Long hours, demanding clients and deadlines and frequent travel. Yes, this might sound glamorous to some but after a few years of being in a high-pressure job where you are judged very much on performance, delivery and keeping within budget took its toll on me. I developed IBS, my moods were erratic, my energy levels were running on empty and I really didn't enjoy what I did any longer. This high-pressure environment affected my physical and mental health. I made the decision two and a half years ago to leave my job and the industry which was the best decision I have ever made and it has had huge positive repercussions.
These are the little changes I made to get to where I am now:
1. Make time for yourself
We have been conditioned to almost wear the 'I'm so busy' statement as a badge of honour. I did it all the time in response to questions of 'how are you?' from friends, family and colleagues, and I was really busy however I was almost proud of how much I had on.
I put everyone else above my own needs, skipping my lunch breaks so that I could put my work needs before my own, agreeing to go to social occasions for friends because that was more important, going to see family on my weekends when I really wanted to be by myself.
I came to realise that I needed to start looking after myself first before I could start doing any of the things above because inevitably I ended up taking my anxiety, stress or negative emotions out on those people and blaming them for my 'busy' predicament. We need to set aside a few nights a week and a weekend once in a while to go for a walk, have a bath, get a massage or just stay have a duvet day. You need recovery days that you can de-stress and chill out.
Now I have heard it before... 'I am not the meditating type, oh that is only for alternative people, I don't know how..' This hands down was one of the biggest influences in reducing stress for me.
Meditation allowed me to be more present in the moment and become aware of my thoughts, as well as monitor that negative self-talk. If you haven't heard the term self-talk then check out a recent blog I wrote on 'How Your Thoughts Affect You'.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, promote emotional health, enhance your self-awareness, lengthen your attention span, reduce memory loss, generate kindness, help fight addictions, improve sleep, control pain and decrease blood pressure. Those are some pretty amazing benefits for 5-10 minutes out of your day.
I started using the app 'One Giant Mind' recently which I love but have also used 'Headspace'.
3. Do an activity you enjoy
While I was still at work I started attending a yoga lunchtime class, not every day but at least twice a week. It was at first a welcome distraction however over time I came to notice the difference in my stress levels if I missed this class.
Exercise is proven to increase your endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels, which in turn elevates mood. Exercise also provides a distraction from daily stressors. It also helps reduce anxiety and depression while in the long term helps to alleviate depression.
4. Eat well and limit alcohol intake
Another huge benefit I noticed was in adapting my diet and eating more healthily, for me that was cutting out gluten and dairy, reducing carbohydrates, increasing protein and including a lot more fruit and vegetables in my diet.
I think it is easy to use travel and work commitments as an excuse for bad food choices. Now more than ever before we have access to better food choices and a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips on the right food choices via the internet. I would always say that if you suffer from any health issues like IBS, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc it is better to speak with a registered dietician or nutritionist who can give advice on specific meal plans.
Reducing alcohol played a huge part in getting my stress under control and helped in elevating my mood. Alcohol for me was something that was present most of the time, whether it was a client lunch, a work function or a de-stress after work. I won't deny that it helps you to unwind, however, alcohol is also a depressant so doesn't have the most positive effect on mood. In this environment it became a bit of a cycle, I would drink because I was stressed in order to relax and in turn that would make me feel worse and so on.
5. Get enough sleep
Some people function just fine on a few hours sleep however for me it is a must to get my eight hours minimum every night. I found that anything less and my cortisol and adrenal levels were high the next day leaving me feeling anxious, stressed out and with general brain fog.
Some studies showed that continually sleep loss can cause forgetfulness, increased levels of anxiety and depression. So if you are like me and need your eight hours then you will massively see benefits to getting enough sleep but if you are one of the lucky few who doesn't need much sleep then I guess keep doing what you're doing.
6. Be grateful
The power of being grateful can't be underestimated. I find that so many people now concentrate on what they don't have in material terms but also in achievements instead of concentrating on what they do have and being grateful for those things.
A great way to start a habit of gratitude is to keep a journal and at the end of each day before bed focus on the things you are grateful for and have in your life. This starts creating a positive mindset.
7. Do something you love
We work for the majority of our lives. If you don't enjoy what you do then it causes stress, creates negative feeling and emotions about situations at work whether they have happened or are yet to happen.
Do something you enjoy, something that gives brings you happiness and makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Having a job that you enjoy creates a positive environment for you to spend time in. It also means that you are more likely to work through hard situations because you enjoy the overall experience.
8. Have a social media detox
Limiting your time on social media not only means that you won't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to those 'polished' lives online but it also means that you aren't wasting valuable time on well ... nothing. Social media or technology addiction is shown to increase feelings of depression, reduce sleep and leave you feeling somewhat disconnected. Endless scrolling through social media sites usually leaves you with feelings of negativity rather than all warm and cosy.