13 Ways to Overcome Stress for FREE….well, almost

We all suffer from stress and we all know that the best way you can overcome stress is to chill out. But when life is busy and there’s an endless amount to get done, we often find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But if you’re stressed to the point that you have sleep issues, racing thoughts, irritability, headaches or trouble concentrating, you’re potentially putting your health at risk. Every April is Stress Awareness Month, so we wanted to focus on the importance of how to keep your stress at bay. If keeping on top of stress and anxiety was as simple as a one-off yoga retreat. The reality is it’s an ongoing & continuous lifestyle change. Now for the good news; we can make it fun and oh so pleasurable! I am going to share ways that I personally de-stress that are pretty fast, cheap and very effective.  Because after all, most people can’t get Spa Treatments twice a week, not even a humble Spa owner!

1. Do Nothing

When we relax, our muscles become less tense, and our blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate become lower and this is the exact opposite of the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. One of the best ways to relax is to simply stop for a while. Modern society equates doing nothing with waste, laziness or lack of ambition, but this is simply not true. The philosophy I bring to the spa is a meeting of the West and East. Buddhism and other spiritual beliefs suggest that detaching from your daily concerns and spending time in simple reflection is essential to health, sanity and personal growth. Doing nothing doesn’t mean sitting on the sofa scrolling through your social media with the TV on. Danish researchers found that people who disconnected from Facebook for just one week reported increases in positive emotions. Don’t overdo it though. Recuperate, don’t’ wallow!

2. Sleep

Sleep is a powerful stress reducer and is perhaps THE best way to de-stress. There has been much research into the importance of syncing with our circadian rhythm. Getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night can make you feel like a whole new person. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment. You are also a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested. Taking time to relax and wind down before bed is important too.

Switch off the TV and stop browsing your devices as the light will keep the brain active and thus interfere with winding down before bed. Try taking a warm shower or my personal favourite. A bath with mineral salts and a few drops of lavender oil. Certain natural scents or herbal teas can also help you relax before bed too. Try burning Lavender Oil in your bedroom and sipping on a cup of calming Chamomile Tea.

3. Eat

Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress. Crashes in your sugar levels caused by erratic food intake and/or not eating the right foods causes stress hormones to be released at quite high levels. Therefore a good diet and eating regularly can REALLY help your body deal with the effects of stress. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings. The reduced adrenaline levels will make you feel happier and calmer inside too. We’re not going to tell you exactly how to eat right, but I know a lady who can.

4. Exercise

Exercise.  Not everyone likes doing it but if you want to be happy and calm, you really need to find a way to do exercise. It can boost your mental wellbeing, making you feel happier and more energetic. Exercising for 30 minutes each day can lift even lift quite a deep depression. When we exercise, it increases the production of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that helps us to feel happiness and pleasure. It also releases endorphins – the feel-good hormones. Exercising out in nature would be like hitting the Jackpot because being in nature helps squash stress symptoms too. Think rivers, birds, waves and leaves. Swim, run, walk, rock climb or kayak – there’s so much happiness to be had. Or even if it’s raining and you don’t feel like hanging out with the ducks, dance naked around your room and shake it off, shake it off…….!

5. Smile

A British study found that one smile generates the same level of brain stimulation as 2,000 bars of chocolate – Green and Black’s; watch this space! So there is definitely something to be said for a cheeky grin every now and then. Smiling releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – your body’s feel-good chemicals that don’t only help you feel less stressed but also reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. Of course, you might not feel like smiling when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, but give it a try and you will notice the difference. And as a bonus, your smile will make others happier too! Did I mention, it’s also free.

6. Breathe

Concentrating on something as simple as breathing helps to cleanse the brain of unhelpful thoughts and feelings brought on by stressful situations. Learning how to breathe properly can change your life. Research shows the positive impact deep breathing has on your ability to deal with stress, and manage your emotions. When you’re under stress, your breathing pattern changes – you take small, shallow breaths, using your shoulders rather than your diaphragm. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body and can cause feelings of anxiety.

If you’re a beginner, try these 4 breathing exercises recommended by Women’s Health Magazine. You will be amazed at how quickly racing thoughts and anxiousness disappear.

If you already know the benefits of breathing and want to take it to the next level, then check out Wim Hof breathing method from the infamous ‘Iceman’ from The Netherlands. The power of mindful and proper breathing is infinitesimal. Seriously, this guy just blows my mind!

7. Talk

Social contact is one of the most important ways of relieving stress. Feeling isolated or not having the opportunity to talk regularly to others can affect mental wellbeing. There’s nothing worse than suffering in silence when you are feeling stressed. After a stressful day, you’ll get rid of that tension much faster by meeting up with friends than you would if you kept it to yourself.  Never underestimate real quality time with the people who are important to you. Stress is a normal part of life and talking with friends or colleagues can help, but sometimes these conversations may help you to realise that you’re not coping and that might mean you need to arrange a chat with a mental health expert.

8. Stretch

Stress causes a lot of tension in your muscles and lower back. Stretching loosens those muscles and increases blood flow, which decreases the production of stress hormones. It also encourages the release of endorphins, providing a sense of tranquillity and euphoria. Stretching before bed will even give you a more comfortable sleeping experience and stretching as soon as you wake up will give you a mental boost of energy.

Yoga has been proven to have a multitude of mental health benefits. Since yoga is a gentle, low-impact exercise, not only does it stretch and strengthen your muscles, making you more flexible and supple, but it has been shown to effectively lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety. Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that consistent yoga practice can not only reduce stress symptoms but also improve your ability to deal with stress in the long-term.

9. Hug

Hugs are just great. We all feel good after being invited in for a welcome hug. Hugs release oxytocin, which is a hormone that can lead to relaxation, trust, and compassion. Oxytocin also increases feelings of trust and contentment and enables bonding.

The average hug lasts 3.17 seconds but hugging longer, say up to 20 seconds, can seriously increase your serotonin levels which will help elevate your mood.  Cuddling an animal can have a similar calming, soothing, and reassuring effect on both you and the animals themselves. So go hug a rabbit or two why don’t you? As I don’t have rabbits, my go-to hug is my wonderful son and Louie, my ginger tabby.

10. Smell

Aromatherapy is a very effective natural treatment for stress because it assists the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself holistically, rather than just treating the symptom or disease. Aromatherapy uses essential oils from flowers and plants. These can enhance well-being and reduce stress and have a calming effect on the system. You can use an oil diffuser, a scented candle, or bath oils to get that gorgeous smell wafting relaxingly straight up your nasal passages! Don’t use yucky synthetic fragrances though as only natural oils release the right happy, stress-reducing hormones you’re looking for.

11. Meditate

Meditation is a powerful technique that has been shown to alleviate anxiety, depression,  and emotional stress. It doesn’t have to be fancy; simply taking time out of your day to find a comfortable place, shut your eyes and practice breathing techniques can be a powerful practice in stress relief. It’s one of the simplest and cheapest ways to relieve the stresses of daily life within just a few minutes.

You can meditate almost anywhere, anytime – pick a quiet, calm place where you can sit and close your eyes. Then close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and keep doing that. The likelihood is your mind will wander off to your shopping or to do list is pretty likely, so just keep bringing your attention back to your breath.

It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite a skill, so if you’re just starting out with meditation there are some amazing meditation apps that will simplify it for you and make it super accessible.

12. Gratitude

Stress has a nasty habit of quickly flipping a positive feeling into a negative feeling. Before you know it, “oh woe is me”. One way to combat negative emotions is showing gratitude for things in your life, no matter how small they may be.  

From something as simple as watching your child skip down the path, or your dog wagging his tail when he sees you, to going on an all-expenses trip to the Maldives…….granted, highly unlikely for most of us, but you get the picture. By practising being grateful every day, even on just a few things, you will likely find yourself noticing more positive things in your life and dwelling less on negative or stressful events. You should hopefully experience feelings of ‘lack’ dissipating and having a greater sense of appreciation for the people and things in your life starting to become more prominent in your day-to-day thoughts. For more on how daily Gratitude can help lift stress, head over to an article on Very Well Mind.

13. Massage

Massage isn’t just fantastic for relieving tension and muscle pain, its benefits for stress management are just as powerful. While anxiety induces an emergency stress response, massage brings out the body’s relaxation response, causing our heart rate to decrease, muscles to relax and breathe to slow. If you don’t have the budget for a professional massage, self-massage can have an uplifting effect on your stress levels. Simply learn the basics and find out what you like. The folks at So Feminine have some great advice on self-massage.

That said, taking yourself off for a professional massage will have a double whammy impact on your stress levels as not only will the massage treatment itself help to alleviate stress, but the act of talking yourself for some unadulterated me time with a hefty helping of indulgent pampering will surely get your stress levels dropping faster than a tonne of bricks.

We all have our personal favourites, so head over to our massage treatments page to see which one ticks your stress box for today?

Support to help you overcome Stress

There are a range of support options available for you if you’re experiencing stress. Different options can work for different people. Whether it’s self-help resources, support groups or accessing reduced cost therapy through Anxiety UK, the most important thing is that you know that there is help available. If you find that your stress is negatively affecting your life, or if you are concerned about another person who is under extreme stress, here are some resources you can use.