9 Great Stress Busters

Beat stress with these techniques to keep calm and carry on.

Feeling stressed is part of modern life, and the lead up to the summer holidays can be a particularly busy, somewhat demanding time, from exams, getting all your work finished before going on vacation to planning a new move. Stress is a little like dark chocolate in that small amounts can good for you, But some people have to go through severely stressful times and that kind of anxiety can damage your body and mind, blocking the fluid communication to and from most organs, especially around the brain’s emotional centre. Here are some helpful ways to avoid that.

Get moving

Getting physical helps create the right state of mind in several ways. First, cardiovascular workouts stimulate brain chemicals that foster growth of nerve cells, helping you feel robust and mentally strong. Second, exercise increases serotonin and norepinephrine activity. Third, an increased heart rate releases endorphins and a hormone known as ANP, which reduces pain, induces euphoria, and helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. And the better news is that you don’t need to participate in a triathlon, a quick stroll is probably just enough to clear your mind and help you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Kick those dirty habits
Don't rely on smoking, drugs or caffeine as a coping mechanism. It’s avoidance behaviour and over the long term, these props won’t solve your problems. In fact, they’ll probably just create new ones. It’s just like putting your head in the sand, your relief will be temporary and you’ll go back to facing the same problems. The answer lies in tackling the cause of your stress.

Keep your connections strong

A problem shared is a problem halved. Colleagues, friends and family can alleviate your troubles when you need help. Why not let them do some of your tasks and vice versa? Mums have a great way of doing this, like car-pooling or taking turns to baby-sit each other’s kids. Talking things over with your friends will also give you some salvaging ideas. What’s more, friends help us relax and we can have a good laugh with them, which is another excellent stress reliever. When people laugh, the autonomic nervous system eases and the heart is allowed to relax. In fact, laughter reduces the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. Plus it’s just fun plain fun and having fun is its own stress buster.

Help the needy
There’s evidence that people who help others, through volunteering or community work, become more spirited. And the more you give, the more resilient and pleased you feel. Helping people, who are usually in situations worse than yours, will help you see things in a different light. Compared to other problems in our world today like abject poverty in Somalia or Cambodia, the things we stress about are pretty minor. Even doing simple favours every day like helping someone to cross the road or getting a coffee for a colleague will make you feel better.

Make time for yourself

Working overtime on everything except ourselves means getting robbed of the chance of doing things we really enjoy. Everybody needs to take some time for mingling, relaxation or exercise. Setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality "me time" away from it all is a great way to unwind. If you pen in two days in your agenda, you’ll be more likely to stick to your getaway plan on those days. By building some boundaries and designating a place and time for certain things, your brain doesn’t have to wear so many hats at the same time.

Prioritise things
Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. You have to get a suitable work-life balance. Working smarter means prioritising your work and concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your life. Let’s say you’ve got three projects due next week, two commitments with your daughter and your husband’s 40th birthday celebration to plan. What do you do? Try recording all the tasks on a sheet of paper or on your computer and number them, starting with the most important. If you don’t get to do the last couple of things, it’s not the end of the world.

Put yourself to the test

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. That, in turn, will help you deal with stress. When you constantly challenge yourself you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life. What’s more, by permanently learning, you become stronger emotionally. With knowledge under your belt, you will feel like doing more things instead of being a couch potato.

Accept the situation as it is
Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. For example if your company is making redundancies, there’s nothing you can do to stop it, so what’s the point in fighting it? The best thing is to recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over, like finding a new job.

Look on the bright side

Always try and focus on the positive things in your life, the ones you are grateful for. You can try writing down the things that went well at the end of each day or what you are glad to have in your life. People don’t always value what they have. If you’re not the optimistic type, try to shift your perspective, see the glass half full instead of half empty. While it takes a conscious effort, it can be done. By changing your outlook, you may see your situation from a more positive point of view.

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