10 top ways to de-stress
We all feel levels of stress at times, but what should we do about it? British Wheel of Yoga instructor Lizzie Lynch looks at ten top ways to de-stress.
Are you having more stressed-out days than not? While short-term stress may be good for us, long-term stress can be harmful to our health. To help you manage your stress, British Wheel of Yoga instructor Lizzie Lynch looks at ten top ways to de-stress this summer.
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s response to pressure. It’s safe to say that we all experience stress at some point or another in our lives. We may feel stressed right before a job interview, a big trip or when we’re reaching a big deadline or milestone.
Stress triggers a set of biological responses, including:
- Releasing stress hormones from your adrenal glands – adrenaline and cortisol
- Increasing blood sugar
- Rising blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
In small doses, stress can be a good thing. It could push you just to the level of optimal alertness, and behavioural and cognitive performance . Yet too much stress can make us feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. Long-term, this can affect both our physical and mental health. That's we we've outlined our ways to de-stress - many of which you can do at home.
Have a look at our stress guide for more information on the stress response and our stress blood tests.
Ten ways to de-stress
1. Get physically active
Walking, running, dancing, swimming, doing gardening – you name it. Physical activity can improve your mental well being. How? Being active releases chemicals in your brain that can make you feel good. Exercise can help you concentrate, boost self-esteem and help you get to sleep (provided you’re not doing a workout just before bed!).
2. Practice yoga
In a yoga class, you’re likely to cover breathing practices, physical postures, and relaxation, which can improve muscle strength, flexibility, blood circulation and oxygen uptake .It doesn’t need to be expensive, there are free classes on YouTube, or you can search for a local accredited teacher on Google or the British Wheel of Yoga website.
3. Get crafty
Some studies suggest that art therapy can be valuable in treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias . You could try journaling, sketching, making collages, sculpting with clay, or getting outside and taking photos.
4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us . Being present means being in the moment-you’re not reliving the past or worrying about the future. Have a go at one of these mindfulness techniques on the NHS website or check out the Headspace app or programme on Netflix!
5. Get restful sleep
There’s nothing like a bad sleep to leave you feeling grouchy. But what if you never get a goodnight’s sleep? If you have difficulty falling asleep, a regular bedtime routine can help you wind down and prepare for bed . Limit digital time and make sure your bedroom is a comfortable environment – quiet, dark, and not too hot or cold.
6. Pick up the phone
Friendships can help to protect our mental health. Our friends can keep us grounded, help us get things in perspective, and help us manage the problems that life throws at us. Make time to call your friends or family this week, or you could even arrange to meet up for a good old natter in person if possible.
7. Enjoy healthy food
It’s amazing how what we eat affects how we feel. Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. Adrenal function is influenced by blood sugar levels, so a diet that stabilises levels of sugar in the blood could help. Have a look at this stress relief diet on BBC good food for some ideas.
8. Review your lifestyle
When was the last time that you sat down to think about how you spend your time? Reviewing your lifestyle can be positive. Do this without judgement and try to notice any habits or patterns in your daily life that you’d like to change. It could be that you’d love to prioritise a daily walk, or you’ve noticed you’re no longer cooking – which you used to love. Whatever it is, think about any positive changes you’d like to make. Then, start slowly– and do it with kindness.
9. Find your me-time
Whether it’s taking a long relaxing bath or chilling with your favourite book or playlist on the patio, take some time for yourself. Observing nature while practising deep breathing could also help to de-stress– the perfect excuse for a walk in the park .
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself
With all of this, it’s so important that you’re not too hard on yourself. Take it slowly, talk to someone who you trust and can confide in. Try to make changes as and when you can. And, if you’ve tried to manage your stress on your own but would like some help, charities like Mind or Samaritans are always there for you.
How do I know if I’m stressed?
Stress can impact how you feel, how you behave and how your body might react. You may recognise the signs of stress in yourself or a loved one.The Mental Health Foundation and Mind both have lots of tools for managing stress, and they are there to help if you need it. On a medical level, cortisol(also known as our stress hormone) is secreted in higher quantities if our body is in its fight or flight response to stress and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. A cortisol saliva test can tell you if you are experiencing excessive stress during the day and whether you need to be adjusting your lifestyle to introduce more relaxation or modify things like your sleep or diet.
Stress tests with Medichecks
Stress Cortisol Saliva Tests (4) - Our most popular cortisol saliva test helps you understand your stress levels and adrenal function over the day - plus it's easy to collect your sample from the comfort of your own home.
- Sanders, R., 2021. Researchers find out why some stress is good for you. [online] Berkeley News. Available at: https://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you [Accessed 21 December 2021].
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- Mindful. 2021. What is Mindfulness?. [online] Available at: https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness [Accessed 21 December 2021].
- nhs.uk. 2021. How to get to sleep. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep [Accessed 21 December 2021].
- Mental Health Foundation. 2021. Friendship and mental health. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/f/friendship-and-mental-health [Accessed 21 December 2021].
- Gonzalez, M. and Miranda-Massari, J., 2014. Diet and Stress. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 37(4), pp.579-589.
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