3 Instant Stress Busters to Try Now
We might be out of lockdown but with the pandemic still ongoing and the inevitable chaos of Christmas fast approaching, it’s easy for stress to quickly overwhelm us. Stress is the body’s natural response to perceived threat, which when activated triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin in order to prepare us for fight or flight. When this happens a number of systems get put in place; blood is sent to our muscles, and our senses and our immune system get put on high alert. Although some stress is good for us and this reaction totally normal, when the stress threat becomes prolonged, it can have a negative effect, impacting several important bodily functions. In order to help reduce our stress levels and train our bodies not to flare up at the first sign of threat, it’s important to keep a few tricks up our sleeves to try and instil calm quickly. Here are our go-tos for instant stress relief when you need it most…
Remember to breathe
Deep breathing is one the best and quickest ways to relax the body. When we’re in fight or flight mode, the sympathetic nervous system, the body's rapid involuntary response to stressful situations, takes over, causing everything to constrict, which means it’s harder for oxygen to get to where it needs to go. Simply by pausing and just inhaling in through the nose and out through the mouth, we begin to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s rest and digest phase, and slow everything down. Nasal breathing has a big advantage in that it allows more oxygen to get to our tissues through the release of nitric acid, a gas which helps blood vessels to relax and expand. This in turn helps us absorb more oxygen to flow freely through our body. Boost your breathing with certain essential oils which are known to help induce feelings of calm; while a 2010 study revealed the scent of jasmine to be as calming as Valium, the scent of precious woods like sandalwood are thought to trigger the release of feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain.
Get outside and exercise
While we all know the instantly grounding effect that being in nature can have, coupling time outdoors with your workout can have a dramatic impact. According to a recent study, time spent exercising outdoors every day not only brings all the associated benefits of regular exercise such as increased endorphins, it can also help to foster a more positive mindset, reduce feelings of fatigue and anxiety and even improve your likelihood of sticking to regular workouts. While busy working schedules and family commitments can mean you often find yourself tied to the house or office, studies show that just 15 minutes a day is enough to make a difference, so consider time outside as a daily essential for your health and wellbeing and make it a priority.
Sit up straight
Days spent hunched over a desk may be all too familiar in a post COVID landscape but if you find yourself dealing with recurring feelings of stress and anxiety, your posture may not be helping. According to a recent study, subjects who sat up straighter recorded higher feelings of self-esteem, better mood and less fear, that those who sat in a slumped position. If you’re struggling to shake off your stress, it could help improve self-esteem and mood to stop and rearrange your posture. If poor posture has become a long-term habit, ease yourself in with plenty of short breaks until you get better awareness of your sitting position and are able to maintain it for longer.