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Reducing stress - the key to a happy life?

Sunday 20th March marks the International Day Of Happiness.  This really got us thinking here in the Time For You office about that age old, $1million dollar question, what is the key to happiness?  We had lots of ideas from spending time with the family to buying a new pair of shoes!  Everyone agreed however that to be happy one needs a life without stress and anxiety.  So, with that in mind we thought we would share with you our guide to reducing stress.


What is stress?


When you feel unable to cope with mental or emotional pressures, you may sometimes develop the symptoms of stress.  Stress can be caused by a wide range of life’s pressures but is most commonly caused by work, money problems or relationships.  All people react differently to these pressures, what one person find stressful, another may find motivating.


Why is it bad


Stress affects how you deal with these pressures and can have a number of symptoms including sleep problems, a loss of appetite, an inability to concentrate, acting unreasonably, drinking more or just simply worrying constantly.  Some may feel medical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tensions or dizziness. These symptoms are caused by hormones released in your body and cause what is often called our “fight or flight” response.  If you are constantly under stress these hormones remain in your body resulting in the symptoms described above.


10 Simple strategies to combat stress


1. Mellow music

This might sound really simple but if a stressful situation is taking over your thoughts try taking a break to concentrate on peaceful music instead.  Whether you listen to classical music or another genre you find mellow and relaxing, music has a positive effect on your brain and body and has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the hormones linked to stress.


2. Eat well

When we are too busy or overworked it can affect our diet as we tend to grab whatever is most convenient to eat.  This food is often a ready meal, convenience food or sugary, fatty snack foods used as a quick pick-me-up. Try to plan ahead to ensure you are getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as tuna or mackerel and nuts have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.


3.  Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins that can improve your mood very quickly.  You don’t have to flog yourself in the gym to receive the benefits of exercise.  A short walk around the office or a breath of fresh air can help immediately relieve a stressful situation.  


4.  Sleep it off

When you are stressed you often get into a vicious cycle of poor sleep.  Lack of sleep however can also be a key cause of stress.  Try to make sure you are getting 8 hours sleep per night which may mean changing your schedule.  Try to avoid watching TV or using phones/lap tops an hour before you go to sleep as this can stimulate your brain, making it more difficult to switch off.


5.  Be ‘mindful’

There are many relaxation techniques that can have a positive effect on reducing your stress levels.  Yoga, meditation and tai chi are all ‘mindfulness’ techniques combining physical and mental exercises to help you relax and can prevent stress in the first place.


6.  Lean on a friend

Taking a break to talk through your situation with a friend can be reassuring and help you put everything into perspective.    


7.  Talk yourself through it

Sometimes just talking yourself through the problem rationally can help.  Identify what is making you stressed and methodically go through how to complete the task at hand.  


8.  The power of laughter

As with exercise, laughter releases endorphins which both improve your mood and decrease the production of cortisol and adrenaline in your body, the hormones that cause stress.  Spend time with friends that make you laugh with or catch up on a box set of your favourite comedy.


9.  Ditch the caffeine

Caffeine may give you a quick lift but it also causes a short-term spike in blood pressure which can affect your adrenaline levels.  Opt for caffeine free drinks such as green tea, it contains healthy antioxidants and amino acids that can calm and sooth your nervous system.


10.  Don’t forget to breathe


Deep breathing can have a real impact on reducing your stress levels as it both oxygenates your blood and helps clear your mind.  Try 3 to 5 minute breathing exercises, breathing in and out slowly and deeply until you feel calm.

Written by Mike Pye
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