Stress is a big issue in our modern day world. Not least in the work place, where more than 450,000 people in the UK suffered work related stress from 2015 to 2016. This resulted in 11.7 million lost workdays and accounted for 37% of work related illnesses. So maybe we should all start taking action to better care for ourselves! Self care is important, and I use these 10 tips to help me to look after myself.
1. Bubble Bath & A Book
Taking time out every week to enjoy a relaxing bath whilst reading is one of my favourite ways to unwind. Combine the hot water and bubble bath with a favourite book or blog, and it feels like luxury compared to the daily boring shower ritual. Relaxing in the tub raises the body’s temperature, and the rapid cool down when getting out mimics the temperature drop that occurs as the brain prepares for sleep. A study illustrated that hot baths before bed made it easier to drop off and gave a better quality of sleep. And with over 48% of us lying awake at night due to stress, hot baths can definitely help to reduce those worries.
Reading in the bath provides added stress relief, as only six minutes of reading has been proven to reduce stress levels by 68% in this study. That’s more than listening to music (61%), having a cup of tea (54%) or taking a walk (42%). Also, try adding Epsom salts as they contain magnesium (something we’re generally deficient in due to our diet) which helps to reduce stress and relax muscles.
2. Walking Outside
Although walking doesn’t reduce stress as much as reading (42% reduction compared to 68% for reading), there are additional benefits gained from the walking. Exercise enhances our mood and helps us to feel good about ourselves. If the weather’s nice get outside even if it’s just for a short walk. And even if it’s raining, put your wellies and waterproofs on and go for a walk in the rain. My favourite local place for walking is Hardcastle Crags. Picturesque trails and scenic views make this a beautiful place to stroll come rain or shine. Find a scenic route near you and get walking to clear your mind, find inspiration and enjoy the outdoors.
3. Regular Breaks
Have you ever been in a work situation or around someone that’s caused you to have a massive meltdown?!I’m sure we all have! Whenever this happened to me I’ve always taken myself outside for a breather to get back on track. And there’s science behind it too. Research has shown that taking breaks can increase productivity, reduce stress and lead to better physical health. So no matter how busy you are don’t skip breaks! It will make you less productive anyway. Stats show that only 30% of UK workers take their lunch break. Imagine how much more productive and less stressed we’d be if we all took our breaks?
I know I often mention the benefits of meditation in my blogs, but it really can help so much! The benefits have been proven; anti anxiety and antidepressant effects, pain management, and of course stress management. It can take as little as five minutes every morning or evening so why not try it today!
From a personal perspective, I’ve found a massage is definitely the most effective way to reduce stress. Every time I take myself to my favourite local spa, I leave feeling refreshed, deeply relaxed and content with life! After 5 minutes of massage in this study, heart rate was found to significantly decrease indicating a reduced stress response. Another study showed the same result, indicating 45-60 minutes of massage lowered heart rates by more than 10 beats per minute. The result is lowered blood pressure, promotion of serotonin (regulating anxiety, happiness and mood) and controlled cortisol levels (the hormone released during stress). Adding aromatherapy to your massage provides stronger and more continuous relief from fatigue, particularly mental fatigue, than massage alone. Aromatherapy reduces the perceptions of stress, increases contentment and again reduces cortisol levels.
6. Irritation List
A great new tip I’ve recently learnt is to make a list of everything you can think of that’s bothering you. It can encompass anything and everything, from a particular person to those cupboards that need cleaning out. Reflecting upon what these irritants are will provide great clarity on what’s causing your stress and allow you to get your frustrations out on paper. Once you’ve done this, think of what you need to do to get rid of these irritants, no matter how big or small. You’ll feel better knowing you’re doing something about the things that bother you. Make it your goal to keep knocking as many irritants off your list as you can!
Just do nothing at all. Sit or lay down for a few minutes in bed in a morning or on the sofa at night, turn everything off, put everything on silent, and just listen to the noises around you. If you prefer, take yourself outside to the park or drive somewhere scenic and park up. And just listen. Just being will provide a state of mindfulness and mental relaxation. Adding slow breathing techniques will reduce blood pressure and heart rate too. This will reduce those cortisol levels and help you to de-stress.
I always enjoy cooking for someone, and find in that moment I’m not thinking about life’s daily stresses. I’m concentrating on making the food taste and look good and enjoying creating something new. Science has proven that as little as 45 minutes of painting can again lower those cortisol levels and reduce stress. Adult colouring books would be an good alternative too. The effects of being creative I believe are similar to meditation; the activity takes the mind away from focusing on stressful thoughts. Whatever it is you enjoy, take time to unwind with your creative passion and enjoy the feeling of relaxation.
A Harvard University survey found that the best stress management technique was planning. This makes a lot of sense to me and it’s definitely something I do every day. I set daily, weekly and monthly goals so I can see all tasks clearly and not miss any deadlines. A study found that 25% of our happiness relies on how well we can manage stress. Start scheduling today to improve your stress management skills!
10. Chewing Gum
In a study carried out by researchers, participants chewed gum whilst multitasking in difficult conditions. The results showed reduced stress and anxiety, lowered cortisol levels, and increased alertness and performance! Another study found chewing gum can alleviate a negative mood and boost calmness and contentment. This is due to improving blood flow to the brain which has a marked influence on these emotions. Who knew gum had so many benefits!