Tips to reduce stress

Take a moment and check your body. Are you hunching your shoulders? Having trouble concentrating? When was the last time you slept through the night?

There’s a high chance you’ve experienced stress this week – maybe you’re experiencing it right now – but rather than actively deal with it, you’ve tried to ignore it, hoping it will just go away.

But if it’s not addressed, stress can manifest itself in different ways on the body. One of the most common consequences is a tension headache. Some people experience an involuntary tick, like an eye twitch. Muscle pain is a symptom of stress, as we carry a lot of tension in our upper back, neck and shoulders. Stress also weakens the immune system, so a stressed body will be more susceptible to viruses.

As most are time-stretched as it is, you don’t need to worry about devoting 30 minutes to meditation – unless you want to. Stress-reducing strategies can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Here’s how:

In the morning:

Give your mind and body a moment of calm before the day ahead. We’re big fans of apps to set us up for the day – particularly Headspace and Calm. Both apps integrate body scans, breathing techniques and mindfulness methods into their guided sessions to help ease the psychological and bodily symptoms associated with stress. Calm offers time-adjustable body scans (the quickest is just 3 minutes) whereas Headspace offers a ‘Take 10’ programme of 10 minutes per day – perfect pre-travel or during your commute.

At work:

If you’re feeling tension in your shoulders, try the ‘Seated twist’ exercise. Sit straight with your knees together, and turn your upper body and face to the right, placing your left hand on the outside of your right thigh. Breathe into the stretch for 10-15 seconds, then repeat on your left side. Repeat until the pain subsides.

Create an opportunity to remove yourself from your workspace – whether that’s a quick coffee run or taking advantage of your lunchbreak. Practice mindfulness by engaging the senses with your environment. Pay attention to any smells; notice the colour of the sky, or interesting cloud formations; listen to the sound of birds (or traffic); feel the temperature on your skin, the breeze against your face. Focusing on something else will help you to relax.

If you somehow find yourself in a sticky situation, locate a tap. Simply run your wrists under cold water for a minute; it will cool your body down and give you a moment to collect your thoughts.

In the evening:

Put down any electronic devices half an hour before bed. Realistically, how can you expect your brain to be able to slow down if it’s still digesting your Twitter feed, Instagram and emails? Make yourself a hot drink – peppermint or camomile are both calming – and keep your lighting low.

We’ve mentioned it before (and no doubt we’ll mention it again), but Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique needs to be practiced to be believed. It’s been widely praised as an effective de-stressing method to help you drift off to sleep. It’s incredibly easy, and all you need is a quiet, calm space. In his own words, here’s what to do:

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.