The 2nd November 2016 was National Stress Awareness Day. Stress gets in the way of our happiness, relationships, our sleep and our mental health and wellbeing. Everyone experiences stress at some point, but it doesn’t have to be that way; the good news is that we have a lot more control than we think we do.
Yes, it’s a thing. Ecotherapy is the term used to describe how getting out in nature could help us to improve our mental health. One of the reasons we all feel so good when we’re on holiday is because we’re more likely to be outdoors, enjoying nature and getting more sunlight. The mental health charity MIND recommends exercising in nature, gardening, walking outside or even gazing out of the window at trees or the sky or having a plant next to your desk as ways to feel calmer and more balanced.
SPELL IT OUT
A 2007 study at UCLA found that when we put our feelings into words, it reduces the activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response. This means that talking about how we’re feeling, or even writing it down, can reduce our response to stress. So simply telling your colleague ‘I’m drowning in emails, I’m so stressed out!’ could go a long way in helping you to feel calmer. If there’s no one around to tell, get a pad of paper and free write about how you’re feeling.
A NOVEL IDEA
Ok, this idea isn’t exactly new; but it’s super simple and deceptively effective. If stress stops you from switching off and sleeping, reading some fiction for 20 minutes before bed could give you enough distraction and escapism to drift off soundly. However, don’t, I repeat, DON’T read on your phone – the blue light it emits and the chance of work emails interrupting your peace of mind will have the opposite effect.
MAKE TIME TO RELAX
When you’re living a busy, fast paced life, don’t wait for relaxation time to magically appear – you’ll be waiting a long time. You have to make it happen! How can you make time in your schedule for some relaxation? Perhaps you schedule in a walk at lunch, cancel your plans and have a night in front of Netflix or let your partner know that you’ll be spending Sunday morning in bed. Relaxation is as important as activity and you need it to function at your best. Prioritise it.
DO THINGS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
It might sounds obvious, but when was the last time you stopped and asked yourself, What makes me happy? What do I love to do? What makes me feel alive? Do I have enough fun in my life? Stress can take over when there’s not enough joy and play in your life. Spend 5-10 minutes answering these questions; then schedule in something fun and enjoyable into your diary. Feeling good and having fun are sure-fire ways to blitz stress.
BE KINDER TO YOURSELF
Time to be honest now, how much of your stress and pressure, is stuff you put on yourself? Am I right?! Are you being kind to yourself? Or beating yourself up? Are you setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and straining for perfection – when good enough would do? It’s time to take the pressure off. You’re doing your best and it’s enough.
TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED
It’s easy when you’re stressed to focus on all the rubbish things that are going on. We get hooked in to negative spirals of thinking that only make us feel worse. Instead, end your day by scanning for the good stuff. When you get in to bed at night, scan through the day and make a mental note of all the good things that happened. It might be that you had a good catch up with a colleague, you discovered a new favourite sandwich at your local cafe, or your commute was less crowded than usual. Doing this trains your brain to be more positive and you’ll automatically become more relaxed.