30 May Ten Steps To Reduce Stress
Feeling the effects of stress can be overwhelming and can leave you with a sense of being powerless. The good news is there is a lot you can do to empower yourself and help regulate your emotions.
The following discusses the ten main areas of your life that you can focus on to help ease your stress and return to a sense of emotional calmness. I have focused on all these areas within my own life and have found the results invaluable. During the times when my thoughts start racing and the tightness in chest takes my breath away, I always return to this list to work out what I need to focus on. It enables me to work out what I need to reduce and what I need more of.
Whilst reading it, I am sure there will be plenty you already are doing within your life. However, focus on the one or two that jump out as your starting point. Be sure to download my three favourite breathing exercises and my guide to enhance gratitude in your life.
1) Understand and recognise your triggers.
Stress is triggered by many different aspects of life and our perception of them. Once you learn to recognise the symptoms of stress your body shows and to identify what triggers them, then you can start to control how you respond. Emotions are messages and if you ignore them they only get stronger. Instead of ignoring or pushing them down, acknowledge your feelings and take appropriate action before they become overwhelming.
2) Speak up!
If you don’t speak up then no one can help you. If you have a work problem, speak with a manager to explain what is happening. In your personal life, speak to someone you trust or seek a professional who will help you to gain a greater insight into how you can deal with the situation. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. Until you tell someone, nothing can happen to change your situation. There is power in voicing your problems – get them out of your head and start addressing the core issues.
3) Be mindful of what you can and cannot control
In any situation there will be things that you can control and those you can’t. Trying to change what you can’t control can be stressful, frustrating and demoralising. Focusing on what you can control makes you feel calmer, more empowered, and gives you choices. Even if it is just the decision to take yourself out of the situation for ten minutes to do a breathing exercise, this allows you to take control back. You can download my 3 top breathing exercises here. You also have control over your actions, your mindset, your attitude and how you communicate. It is also important to keep things in perspective, prioritise, and be realistic about your expectations of yourself.
Make sure you get a consistent amount of good quality sleep. The ideal is 7-8 hours but find your optimum amount and stick to your routine – even at the weekend.. To improve the quality of your sleep, turn off screens an hour before you go to bed, reduce caffeine, recreational drugs, nicotine and alcohol, and keep your bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
5) Food and drink
A bit of organisation with your food can make all the difference to your energy, mood and general wellbeing. Try to keep stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol to a minimum. Green tea is a great alternative to coffee. Instead of refined sugar and carbs (such as white bread and pasta), choose slow release carbs (brown rice, wholewheat bread and oats). Eat at regular intervals with protein (meats, nuts, oily fish, beans, pulses or egg), with each course. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast as this can lead to increased levels of cortisol. Nuts, seeds and fruit are easy to store in your bag, at your desk or at home. Drink plenty of water as dehydration increases the stress on the body. Alcohol may seem like a good way to relax, but in fact has the opposite reaction – it reduces the quality of sleep, reduces cognitive abilities and can increase stress. Experiment and find out what suits your body.
Schedule exercise into your day to reduce cortisol, release endorphins, and boost your mood. You could consider getting off public transport early and walking part of your journey to work. Yoga, running, gym, swimming, walking in the park and pilates are some other great forms of exercise that will help to release your stress, make you feel better and give you more energy.
7) Meditation and Mindfulness
Bringing in these practices can make a huge difference to how you respond to stress. Whether it is meditating for twenty minutes a day or being mindful for a moment as you wash your hands, the practice of meditation enables you to refocus and reset. Focusing your mind and acknowledging your feelings, without judgement, can still a wandering mind and release you from a dreamlike state. Meditation creates an openness and clarity that makes decision making easier, improves memory and gives you a sense of wellbeing.
8) Feed your soul
Bring some interesting and enriching activities into your life, for example: reading, walking in nature, drawing, painting or crafting. You could join a club, learn something new or attend a cultural event. What would enrich your life?
9) Socialisation and connection
We all need connection with others, it is a fundamental part of being human. Depression, addiction and unhappiness are often due to a lack of connection. Make an effort to reconnect with family and friends. Join a group of like-minded people, get involved in your community or you could get a pet. There are many ways to connect, consider it an adventure to find the right connections for you.
Being grateful for what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have, has been found to substantially improve your emotional health. It is impossible to be grateful and stressed at the same time. Next time someone asks you about your day, report all the good things that happened and notice how differently gratitude makes you feel. Download my guide to my favourite gratitude exercises here.
Keep your choices simple. This is meant to be an enhancing exercise and not to add stress into your life. And remember, that adding just one activity into your life can tick all 10 of these steps. Explore and enjoy the journey of discovery. Please comment below on what you are going to to improve your life. Please contact me with any questions you might have regarding this.