stress awareness month

5 quick and easy ways to lower your stress

Here we’ve put together a list of five proven methods to help keep your worries at bay.

In the modern world, stress levels can spike at a moment’s notice—and all the more so in the current climate of coronavirus and a lengthy lockdown.  April was Stress Awareness Month—a yearly event that aims to raise awareness of the cause, and cure, of stress. Feeling restless? Try out these five proven methods. The results may surprise – and calm – you.

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1. Stay in, work out

It’s no miracle cure, yet physical activity is a proven weapon in the war against stress. Beyond the obvious health benefits, exercise boosts your ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters, called endorphins. It’s also a blissful distraction, which keeps you firmly in-the-moment. And if you needed further convincing, exercise also lowers symptoms of anxiety and depression, and helps improve sleep—something that’s often disrupted by stress.

Of course, each person’s level of fitness—not to mention, mobility—is different. But everyone should be able to exercise from the comfort of their own home, should they want to. Try these gentle sitting exercises that cover flexibility, balance and strength recommended by the NHS or the popular YouTube series Yoga with Adriene.

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2. Free up some headspace

Over the last couple of years, meditation has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the mainstream. The reason is simple: it works. Meditation is proven to aid all manner of ills—from anxiety and depression through to memory, sleep, pain and, yes, stress.

There are thousands of smartphone-friendly apps around, but the most popular, by far, is Headspace. Ideal for both beginners and pros, the app is packed with guided exercises and cool animations, presented by a mindfulness expert whose soothing voice alone will melt away your worries.

For more tips on things to do to keep yourself busy and reduce stress in these times, read disability consultant Helen Dolphin’s 10 things to do in self-isolation.

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3. Count your blessings

Study after study will tell you that gratitude is good for you. Improved sleep, healthier relationships and increased happiness are just three key benefits, alongside a lower level of stress.

Keeping a gratitude journal is easy – spend 15-minutes at the end of the day listing 5-10 things you’re thankful for. It can be detailed, or as simple as “family” or the “nice breakfast” you enjoyed. The exercise forces you to put stress into perspective and reminds you that although not everything necessarily went your way, there’s a growing body of evidence that the vast majority did. Even during these times of increased anxiety, you’ll find little victories worth noting down.

For some, a gratitude journal is as easy as scribbling their thoughts on a scrap of paper or their smartphone, while others prefer something more formal. If you’re in the latter camp, there’s no shortage of options available, though we particularly like the Gratitude Happiness Journal.

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4. Laugh About It

The phrase “laugh in the face of adversity” is backed by actual science. Laughing—even if entirely forced—can have a significant impact on your mood. As well as having stress-busting benefits, so-called ‘laughter yoga’ can boost immune system function, lower your blood pressure, and even increase your pain threshold.

Madan Kataria, a doctor from India, is the pioneer of laughter yoga. His work is infectious—after inventing the practice in 1995, there are now 20,000 ‘laughter clubs’ around the world; online and entirely free. In need of a chuckle? Right now we all are. The Laughter Yoga University lives here and is teeming with content.

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5. Hug a hound

After all that, the solution to managing your stress was staring you in the face – tail-wagging, tongue panting – all along. When it comes to the pros of pet ownership, the science is staggering. Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure, improved recovery from heart disease, greater psychological wellbeing, have greater self-esteem, and on and on.

Want to elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine (the trusty ‘happiness hormones’)? Then go ahead and give Rex a cuddle. It really is that easy. Not everyone’s lucky enough to have a furry stress reliever of their own, of course. In which case, BorrowMyDoggy is a service that, as the name suggests, helps dog lovers get a regular fix of Fido. Maybe not right now, as we sit in lockdown, but a definite option to add to your To-Do list when life returns to normal. Until then – there are plenty of videos of our furry friends on the internet to keep your spirits up!

For more information on Stress Awareness Month, click here.

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