Stress. Does a day go past that we don’t hear that word now? Most of us are in a constant state of stress to varying degrees at all times now! Thanks to our smartphones, we are available to all people, and their needs and demands, 24:7. We reply to work e-mails before bed, and read distressing news from around the world before we’ve even properly opened our eyes. We’re more impatient than ever, in a constant state of ‘doing’, perpetually afraid of being ‘bored’ and so, is it any wonder we are feeling permanently tired, ill, and STRESSED. In this era, learning to cope with stress is more important than ever.
First though, I thought I might explain why stress is just so bad for us: stress has been linked so a wide range of illnesses because high levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) in our bloodstream weakens our immune system meaning we are more susceptible to getting ill. It is also linked to weight gain because it increases our insulin levels (which is basically our fat storing hormone!) and causes us to feel hungrier and crave sugary foods. I often see stress like a game of Tetris. For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember, Tetris was one of the best Game Boy games in which you try to fit different shapes together in perfect alignment so that you clear the line. It would start well but then if one shape went in the wrong place, all the other shapes would quickly stack on top until it was game over! I reckon that life is sometimes a bit like a game of Tetris, you need keep clearing the line and getting rid of the shapes (i.e STRESS) so that you don’t let it all build up until its GAME OVER i.e. you burn out!
Here are my top tips:
TURNING YOUR PHONE OFF
Ok I’m not going to talk too much about this because I think we’ve all heard it a thousand times before but I’m putting this at the top of my list because I really do believe that this is one of the most important things we can do to lower our stress levels. For reasons mentioned above, we can never really entirely devote time to ourselves if we are constantly on our phones. I’ve noticed that I’ve been particularly bad with my phone recently - I can’t seem to put it down! Even at dinner my phone is face up and I find I have one eye looking at my notifications. Not only is it terribly bad mannered, it means that I’m not entirely present and mindful of my surroundings or my company. I’ve definitely felt more ‘manic’ as a result and so this article is definitely a reminder to myself to put my phone away, in another room or hidden away in my bag for at least a couple of hours a day. It really is the first step to feeling a sense of calm within ourselves.
Walking is one of the most under rated activities in my opinion! I am OBSESSED with walking (and a little bit addicted to my Stepz app – I need to see that green 10,000 step alert!). When you are feeling stressed or anxious about something, going for a long walk, with your favourite tunes playing through your headphones, really can do you the world of good. It clears your mind, gets your body moving, and gives you a chance to be out in nature, appreciating and taking in the world around you. I also love listening to self-help podcasts while I’m walking for a double whammy of goodness.
Exercise is one of the most natural stress busters out there. The release of endorphins give you a natural high and mentally you feel as though you have accomplished something, which can give you the kick-start you need for a productive day. I’ll take that over a cocktail and a subsequent hangover any day! Whether it’s boxing, spinning, personal training, circuits or barre, find something you love and incorporate it into your routine. Find the time of day that suits you best so you look forward to it rather than dread it – if you’re a morning person, make the most of that morning energy or if you are a night owl then unwind from the day with an post-work session before you settle into the evening. But it’s important to note that TOO much exercise is also a stressor, so easy does it, listen to your body and REST when you feel you need to!!
For me, yoga is my go to for releasing stress, keeping me sane and allowing me the space to listen to my body whilst slowing down my mind. When I speak about yoga to people, I hear a lot of people that say “I tried it once, I hate it and I’ll never do it again” or “it’s so boring though”. I was one of those people and it took me years to get into it, but I persevered because I needed to fix my bad back and now it brings me so much joy that I am determined to spread the word! If you tried yoga and hated it too, it is probably because you the style (or the teachers’ style) didn’t suit you and it put you off, so try out a few before you judge. If, like I was, you are naturally really inflexible, I recommend starting with Iyenger Yoga (which uses props to help you open up your body safely and slowly), Yin Yoga or go to beginners’ classes. There is nothing more intimidating then going to a hardcore Vinyasa Yoga classes where one person is in the splits and the others are just chilling upside whilst you can hardly touch your toes. It’s hardly suprising so many people get put off!
For stress busting specifically I LOVE Yin. Yin Yoga is a slower paced class where you get into a posture and hold it for 3-5 minutes whilst focusing on your breath. This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, decreases your levels of cortisol and releases energy blockages in the body. I have also found it to be one of the only things that helped my insomnia! I do yoga at KXU London 4-5 times a week and would recommend EVERY single class there – it is my absolute favorite place to practice (https://www.kxu.co.uk/)
Reading, the ultimate holiday hobby. We get sucked into our favorite thriller, romance novel or self-help book and then swear to read more when we’re home, only for our books to sit on the shelf untouched till we next head to the airport.
I really do love reading and there’s nothing better than finding yourself transported to another world where you are so engrossed that you forget everything around you. It’s like an active meditation! I recently decided to start reading not only on holiday, but back in London at a time which is otherwise dull and occasionally frustrating – on the commute to and from work. It makes the journey more enjoyable, meaning I am less stressed, and helps me to step away mentally from my thoughts and re set.
For those of you who really don’t like to read, or just find you are unable to concentrate properly, try an audio book!
A spa day is the epitome of relaxation. Unwinding on loungers, dipping into a heated pool, having a massage and then using the sauna and steam room before taking a long shower. We feel cozy and calm afterwards and head back to our daily life a more relaxed version of ourselves! But it’s hard to find the time (and money) to take out a day to dedicate to this. Well, it seems the most beneficial part of all this is the sauna and steam room! The sauna reduces blood pressure and releases endorphins while the steam room lowers cortisol levels, as well as both being seriously relaxing (there is no chance of having your phone in there!). Follow this with a cold shower and you feel wide-eyed and refreshed! I try and do this once to twice a week - most big gyms have them and if you are in London, BXR (a pay as you go gym) have an amazing steam room to use post class!
Like yoga, meditation is something that a lot of people struggle to start with. The idea that you should sit and clear your mind of your thoughts can be really daunting. More than that, it’s actually really hard and when we are unable to completely zone out the first time we try it, we can often think to ourselves ‘OK, I’m no good at meditating, it’s not for me.’ But we have to remember that meditation is just like exercise; we have to practice it and get better at it and its ok not to nail it this first few times! Everybody I know who meditates daily, even just for five minutes, has told me how much it’s changed their lives and how better equipped they feel when dealing with day to day life. Whether it’s at the end of a yoga class or using an app on your phone, try committing to a few minutes a day (building up the time each time), for 7-10 days consecutively and see how you feel! You might become a zen, mediating guru before you know it.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy week
Lots of Love, Roxie xx
Tagged in Stress