Like it or not, our fast-paced, non-stop lives have made being stressed-out a constant state of being for many of us. In fact, chronic stress is increasingly being recognized as one of the lead causes for many of the health issues we face. Medical professionals around the world are recommending stress-reduction techniques either as part of a healing protocol or as a preventative measure, while corporations around the world are investing in helping to reduce the stress levels of their employees.
Whether you’re going through family issues, having trouble at work, moving homes, going through a divorce, or recovering from a traumatic experience – or all of the above – these stress-reduction hacks will help soothe you.
There are about a million and one reasons to exercise daily, but you don’t need to have a heart-pounding workout every time. While working up a sweat can help to boost your endorphin levels (and, in doing so, help to combat stress hormones), trying to force yourself to stick to a rigorous regime can actually cause more stress if it’s something you’re struggling to fit into a busy schedule or if it feels more like an obligation than an enjoyably good-for-you activity on some days. What’s more, a tough workout can be perceived as added stress by your body, which is the opposite of what you’re looking for.
If you’re going through a tough time, don’t do more than what you’re feeling up to, even if that’s a ten-minute walk around your neighborhood. Plug in a good podcast, call a friend, and just take your mind off your worries or your work. In fact, whatever exercise you choose, the focus that is naturally required to perform at any level will help to hold your attention enough to distract you from whatever is stressing you out, giving your brain a much-needed break.
Listen to Music
Playing intense techno or head-pounding heavy metal isn’t likely to help calm you down (even if you’re a big fan of it ordinarily), but certain types of music can indeed have a soothing effect. Whether it’s classical music, yoga-worthy meditation-style tunes, or some sort of chill-out alternative folk (Jack Johnson, we love you for this), listening to music can help to lower your blood pressure, slow down your heart rate, and bring down your anxiety and stress levels.
And we mean that both literally and figuratively. Certain jobs can be extremely demanding and require employees to be as easily accessible as possible, as often as possible. In those cases, you need to make sure that you are allowing your brain to switch off from all of that – and that includes doing the same with your devices. Pick a certain time to turn your phone off (or, at the very least, put it on silent or put it away in a place that’s out of sight and, most importantly, out of mind) and be strict about it.
If you’re worried about staying offline for too long, why not set an alarm to remind you to check back in? It may seem counterintuitive, but by allotting yourself a set amount of time during which to go off the grid, you’ll actually be able to enjoy it fully rather than having your mind in two places at once.
The same goes for when you’re sleeping. A study by the National Sleep Foundation in the US found that a college student lost an average of 46 minutes of sleep because of answering phone calls or sending messages. Try switching your phone off an hour before bedtime, and don’t turn it on again until you’re ready to start your day. You’ll need to invest in an old-school alarm, but that’s a small price to pay.
Feel the Love
Kiss your husband, cuddle your cat, snuggle your kids, or play with your dog. All of those wonderful nerve endings in our lips and fingertips release happy chemicals for our brain upon contact, and engaging in this sort of behavior can help your brain release joy-inducing and stress-busting endorphins. Studies have shown that cuddling can even help to reduce pain, lower blood pressure, and lower cortisol levels. Oxytocin, the “love hormone”, is truly a powerful and wonderful thing.
Find a comedy show on Netflix or Apple TV – or, better yet, watch one live – or call up your friends and schedule a night out full of good conversation and laughter. Research has shown that not only can laughter help to reduce stress, but even just anticipating having a giggle can already have a positive impact on the mind.
Yoga offers a wide number of physical and mental benefits, chief amongst them the fact that it’s been found to help reduce stress, anxiety, and even depression. In one study, researchers found that just 12 sessions could have a seriously significant effect as a treatment for such issues. Yoga also promotes physical wellbeing, which can help with any chronic aches and pain that are adding to your stress. For stress reduction, opt for a less-intensive class, like Hatha Yoga or Yin Yoga.
If yoga’s not for you, you might want to try a stretching class. The newly opened Stretch Studio in Dubai offers 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-, and 60-minute assisted stretching sessions and operates all week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lack of sleep, insomnia, and chronic tiredness have all been linked to depression, anxiety, and stress. Plus, when you’re in that state, you’re not likely to be thinking straight, which means you can really exacerbate the situation.
When you feel like everything’s just a little too much to handle, you’re overwhelmed, or you’re just seriously stressed out, take a nap or head to bed early for a solid night’s sleep (aided by essential oils, if necessary). The physical and mental changes once you awaken well-rested will be profound.
Deep breathing can have a profound effect on our stress levels, and while breathing may seem like the most simple thing in the world, there are a huge variety of techniques out there that can specifically help you combat issues like stress. From deep, belly-bound breathing to alternate-nostril techniques or breathing accompanied with positive visualization, there are a variety of techniques to be explored until you find the one that resonates most with you.
Breathing also acts as a form of meditation, which is a proven method of helping to fight stress as well. Meditating regularly, living mindfully, and working on improving your mind-body connection can also help increase your resilience to stress overall, so consider it your exercise towards building stress-resistant mental and emotional muscles.
If you’re new to meditation, you might want to try a guided program through apps like Calm or Headspace. There are also a number of meditation classes around town, in wellness centers like Life’n One, Sanjeev Krishna Yoga, Zen Yoga.