How do we reduce stress?
In Parts One and Two of my blog we have identified what stress is and what causes it, but what can we do to combat it? Firstly you need to be able to recognise when you are being affected by stress. Sometimes it can creep up on us slowly overtime and we don’t realise how it’s impacting us. Refer back to Part One in my stress series and see whether you’re suffering from any of the stress symptoms. Once you’ve spotted the signs you can begin to take some responsibility for it! Realise that we can take back the control and do not have to be a ‘product’ of our circumstances.
It’s important to not only learn how to manage our stress, but also to prevent it from happening in the first place as much as possible. Our minds need as much maintenance as our bodies do in terms of ‘exercising’ it to stay healthy. There is absolutely no shame in that…and making some small changes can benefit our mental health massively. The best way to achieve this is to try and integrate this into daily rituals so eventually it becomes a healthy habit. However it’s always about small steps and not worrying too much if things don’t always work out perfectly, the main thing is to get up and try again!
So how can we start to prevent, reduce and maintain our stress levels?
1. Maintain healthy brain chemistry!
In our brains we have neurotransmitters that are basically chemicals that pass information throughout our body between nerve cells (neurons). These can be for our physical functions i.e. to tell our heart to beat; but there are also certain neurotransmitters that greatly affect our mood. The most commonly known one is serotonin, which generally makes us happier but also helps us to cope more and feel more motivated. When there is a chemical imbalance it can change the way we feel and even the way we behave. For example if we have low serotonin then we may start to feel low and experience depression. There are many reasons why your neurotransmitters may get depleted such as poor diet, alcohol and caffeine…but also stress plays a major role too.
However the good news is there are natural ways to overcome this imbalance to help increase serotonin and other healthy neurotransmitters. In short these are- positively interacting with others, positive activity (such as exercise) and positive thinking. Knowing this will help you to understand how the following tips help with a healthy brain and stress management!
2. Prevention and Reduction for the Physical side to Stress
Stress is just as much a physical feeling in our body than it is a mental feeling. Being mindful about ways to not only reduce that but also prevent it beforehand, is very beneficial for our overall well-being. Things to think about:
a) Sleep: It’s recommended that we get around 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to recuperate generally, but sleep is also very important for dealing with any stresses that have happened in the day. If we don’t allow ourselves that time to rest, our stress builds up overtime and we suffer long-term. Try to get a good night’s sleep and cut out those late nights as much as possible!
b) Food: Eating a balanced diet and having sufficient nutrients is vital for our bodies and again helps to keep our stress in check! If we have a poor diet then our brain chemistry goes out of balance and our mental health suffers.
c) Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: You may not like this one but both of these have a massive influence on our brain and body, and therefore our mood and stress levels! Nobody is perfect but if we are aware of this we can begin to make small changes to limit our alcohol and caffeine intake.
d) Relaxation Techniques: If you’re already starting to feel that stress build up, then teach yourself some techniques to help bring it back down again. There are different breathing techniques you can learn, or perhaps you can find some guided meditation on YouTube…there are plenty out there!
e) Physical Activity: Exercise is a great mood booster, it increases your serotonin levels and also helps your body to feel great too! However I’m not suggesting you have to train for a marathon (unless you want to!)… just getting outside for a nice walk or gentle cycle will help!
f) Treat Yourself: Do something nice for yourself that is relaxing for your body. Get yourself a massage, pamper yourself, have a hot bath, listen to some music, relax in the garden, watch something funny, try a new hobby…the list is endless! Just make sure to give yourself some time for you.
3. Prevention and Reduction for the Mental side to Stress
Now some might say that the harder side to managing stress is the mental side and our thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be out of your control. Once you begin to bring your stress levels down overall, your thoughts will get easier. However training your brain to think more positively in the first place also keeps down those stress levels. Some more things to think about:
a) Learning to Think more Positively: I’ve previously written a blog for tips on ways to start thinking more positively. Click here.
b) Gratitude: You may have heard of this before but get a gratitude journal. At the end of each day write 5 things down that has either been good or that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be massive things, it could be that you’ve had a nice dinner…the important thing is that you notice everything big and small. Practising gratitude literally rewires our brains to be happier and in turn keeps our stress levels down- win win!
c) Socialise: Sometimes it may be the last thing you want to do when stressed but try and make yourself get out there and interact with some nice, positive people! Again it boosts that serotonin and is a great mood lifter…even if it’s just having a coffee and a chat. If you’re struggling to meet like-minded people, then meetup.com is a great place to start!
d) Do something good: Get out there and do something good for the community. Perhaps some volunteering or getting involved in a local event. Helping others makes us feel good too and it also give us the chance to meet new people. If you’re interested in some volunteering activities then check out do-it.org.
e) Stay out of drama: Life can be tough as it is, don’t over complicate it by getting involved in other people’s drama and stress unnecessarily. I’m not saying not to help a friend in need, but sometimes people like to create drama and negativity for the sake of it. Leave them to it and focus on yourself and the positive people in your life.
f) Look for triggers: Learn what triggers your stress and try to notice any signs in yourself that may tell you that things are getting too much. Once you get to really know yourself and recognise this, you can turn it around by using some of the tips above and stop it in its tracks before it gets too far!
g) Keep learning: And last but not least, keep learning! Read and educate yourself on mental health, stress, personal development and anything and everything that can help you to keep those stress levels down and create that happy future for yourself. Different things work for different people and it’s about discovering for works for you. And if you have a dip, just know that it happens to the best of us as we are only human. So get back up again and keep learning!
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a really great way of reducing stress and making small, positive steps forwards. It helps you to figure out what is the right way for you! It also helps to train your brain to be more positive and learn the skills necessary in order to keep those stress levels down. If you feel like you would like to discuss any of this further, then please contact me today.