Stress expresses itself in many different ways: feelings of overwhelming anxiety, a quickened heart rate, that queasy feeling in your stomach, or a tension headache that just won’t go away. However your stress rears its ugly head, you have the ability to shut it down in minutes with these quick tips.
1. Deep breaths
When you’re feeling stressed, you tend to take small, shallow breaths. This type of breathing upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body, having a negative effect on your organs, including your big ol’ emotional brain. There’s a good reason the age-old advice to ‘take a deep breath’ is so effective in nipping tension in the bud: using breath control techniques helps restore the balance of gases in the body, which in turn lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and improves immune function. All these positive side effects contribute to a greater sense of calm and relaxation. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, close your eyes, take inhale for the count of five, hold the breath, and then exhale for the count of five. You’ll feel calmer in no time.
2. Disconnect from tech
Look around and you’ll likely see people staring down at the smartphone in their hand, scrolling or typing at lightning speed. You’re probably one of them. While these amazing pieces of technology, along with tablets and computers, help us stay organised and in touch with friends, family and colleagues, they also keep us plugged into a seemingly endless and overwhelming torrent of information. Techtimes.com have even linked excessive smartphone use to depression and anxiety, and reduced academic and work output. So if you need to slow your mind, consider a social media detox, and perhaps disable push notifications on your phone so you don’t feel pressured to respond to that message, group chat or email straight away. Also, make sure to take regular breaks from your computer, even if it’s just to look out the window for a minute or two. And don’t – ever – take your iPhone to bed with you.
3. Listen to the classics
Ever noticed how your mood changes depending on the type of music you’re listening to? That catchy pop song makes you feel optimistic about the day ahead, the fast-paced electronic track helps you stay focussed at work, and slow soulful tune can calm you after a busy day at the grind. The impact music has on our emotions is quite profound, so much so that researchers at Stanford University found that a peaceful ditty can have the same calming effect on the brain as anti-anxiety medication. So when you’re feeling a bit tense, turn off the heavy metal, press play on some soothing beats, and bring some quiet to your poor frazzled brain.
4. Go to the dark side
While we might hypothesise that demolishing a family-sized block of Cadbury’s brings about feelings of great happiness, research discussed by www.everydayhealth.com goes some way to backing our ‘theory’ up – when it comes to dark chocolate, at least. In this study, subjects who ate dark chocolate had lower levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine compared to those who ate a placebo. So when you’re stressed and reach for some chocolate, be sure to keep it dark and limit yourself to only a few squares. Spikes (and subsequent falls) in blood sugar levels can be associated with mood swings and stress.
5. Giggle your way to relaxation
Laughter is truly the best medicine when it comes to stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is because the act of laughing increases your oxygen intake and the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) in your brain. Because you’re taking in all that extra oxygen, your heart, lungs and muscles are stimulated, increasing your circulation, relaxing your muscles and steadying your heart rate and blood pressure. We knew there was a reason those funny cat videos made us feel so happy!
6. Go for green
Having a stressful morning? Instead of reaching for that triple-shot grande mocha latte, steep yourself a cup of green tea instead. Tea leaves contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which has shown to decrease the heart rate and saliva production – markers of stress – in a study by the Nagoya University, Japan. The effects of L-theanine have been compared to that of meditation, with this soothing drink also helping you maintain focus and concentration.