Everyone will agree it is much easier said than done. Stress can come about at the worst of times, an overwhelming weight on your shoulders that stops you from being the regular you. Instead, you’re flustered, your eating and exercising regime goes right out the window, you’re anxious and counter-productive. Letting stress take over is not a healthy state to be in, but often it is very hard to manage.
We experience stress when there is an imbalance between resources and demands. How stress affects an individual varies from person to person, and can depend on the situation at hand. While mild stress (a little bit of pressure to get that assignment done or meet that deadline) may not necessarily be a bad thing, in a clinical sense, unmanaged stress can develop into other mental health problems, like anxiety or depression. Chronic stress can cause an imbalance in our biochemistry, by elevating cortisol and suppressing serotonin. While these changes can create issues of their own, they can also affect your susceptibility to disease or the development of disorders. These include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and irritable bowel disorder.
Finding a way to help reduce or manage your stress is incredibly important, however different things work for different people. Here are my five suggestions for activities that you can engage in regularly to help unwind and destress.
Practiced for thousands of years, meditation has become increasingly more popular for relaxation and reducing stress. Meditation places the body in a deep state of relaxation by clearing your mind, encouraging a sense of calm and balance. Meditation can help you carry on with your day more calmly which can benefit your overall emotional wellbeing. There are plenty of classes or apps that can talk you through the techniques of meditation, and it is something you can practice anywhere.
2. Engage in exercise
Going for a run or completing a heavy weights session in the gym can lift a load off your shoulders and provides a means for releasing stress. Stress-relieving exercise does not have to be high intensity – trying out a leisurely walk of an afternoon or attending a yoga or pilates class can help just as well. Listen to your body, and your needs, and find what works for you.
3. Try floating
One of the locations I currently offer nutrition services out of is City Cave – a float and wellness centre. A float tank or bath is a solution of body-temperature water and a high concentration of epsom salts which you lie in for an hour to achieve a sense of deep relaxation and restore. Floating is combined with sensory deprivation – that is, when you are floating in the tank or bath, it is ideal to be in complete darkness, allowing your body to relax. At City Cave, you can choose to listen to meditative music at the same time. It is a truly unique experience, but one that aids in neurological, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, muscular skeletal and hormonal balance, as well as relaxation and healing. As someone who is quite high strung, my first experience with floating was fantastic – there is absolutely no pressure on your body at all, and being in a dark room with the soothing sounds of binaural beats to listen to – I found my whole body just completely relaxed. Read more about floating and City Cave here.
4. Reading a book or listening to music
An activity as simple as reading or listening to music can do wonders for your mind. If you are someone that loves to get lost in a great story or tune, then taking the time out of your week to do just that can be incredibly therapeutic. Distracting your mind through reading a book can help slow down your heart rate and decrease muscle tension. Alternatively, listen to relaxing music can help ease a busy mind but giving your brain and body a distraction. Listening to music in combination with practicing mediation techniques can be incredibly relaxing and stress relieving.
5. Speak with a psychologist
Speaking with a professional about what is on your mind, or the pressures you have in your day to day life is one of the most effective ways to help manage stress. I feel that there is still stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health, and I can say from experience that having someone there to support you and offer advice in a time of need is incomparable. A psychologist can help you master effective coping strategies for stress, improve your relationships with people or with your workload, help you manage your stress more effectively and even help improve your communication with others.5