We are certainly living in stressful times. Covid-19 has truly changed our lives in a short amount of time. For many of us our normal routines have been changed quite significantly and we find ourselves either working from home or homeschooling – or a bit of both. For service workers and health workers (or those that work in the public) work life has taken on a new level of rising stress.
We are all trying to keep it together as well as maintaining a good level of health and the current situation, which is on-going for several weeks to come, will surely add high levels of stress into our lives. So, it’s important to keep our minds and bodies stress free. This certainly isn’t any easy task but by following a few simple steps we can make this period bearable for the foreseeable future. April is Stress Awareness month and Need2Know Books has the following information to help you find calm and relaxation during these very weird times.
Learning the Signs of Stress
What’s the first sign you notice when you’re stressed? Some people only realise that they’re becoming overwhelmed or stressed out when they notice a slight feeling of queasiness or a shortness of breath. So how do you deal with that stress? The good news is that you have the power to reset your stress levels almost instantly. Just as a bit of bad news from a family member or a snarky message from a client can bring your stress hormones up in an instant, a few carefully chosen techniques can bring them down just as quickly.
We don’t get to choose whether we become stressed or not, but with a little practice, we can choose how long that stress lasts. If you want to keep your stress in check, you can give these methods a go!
1. Get into Yoga
Being in lock down has its challenges so we have to be creative with how we exercise. if you’re a passionate yoga practitioner it’s likely you’ve already noticed some benefits of yoga– everything from a decreased number of colds to increased general wellbeing and better sleep. To the uninitiated, though, lines like “It increases the flow of prana” and “It lets me communicate with my body” are as clear as mud and make it a little challenging to pin down the actual benefits.
It’s really worth looking into the benefits of yoga, as they can be quite remarkable.
Yoga Can Decrease Stress
The body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol, actually appears to be secreted in lower quantities in those that practise yoga. In one study, which tracked 24 women who perceived themselves to be emotionally distressed, participants were found to have significantly lower levels of cortisol after a yoga program lasting just three months.
Yoga Can Relieve Anxiety
The idea that yoga can help reduce anxiety is actually something that’s supported by a fair amount of research. One study found that those who practiced yoga during a two-month study had significantly lower levels of anxiety at the end of the study than those who didn’t.
2. Introduce 10 – 15 minutes of exercise each day
Exercising 10 to 15 minutes is a day is a sure way to keep your body fit without creating too much pressure on the muscles. BX Plans is currently running a Get the World Fit for Free campaign allowing the public to download a free Men’s 5BX plans or Women’s XBX plan book. First developed by Dr Bill Oban in the 1950s and later adopted by the Royal Canadian Air Force, BX Plans helped launch the fitness culture we have today and have since become one of the longest running fitness plans in the world. To get your free copy visit: bxplans-uk.com/freebies.
3. Go for a Stroll
Although this is a bit difficult (considering the current lockdown) Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that we are allowed out for exercise once a day. Getting out into the fresh air will certainly help your stress levels. When something simultaneously allows for reflection and holds our attention, we are experiencing a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention”. This is something that you can achieve by walking in a green space like a park, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, but if you don’t live near any green spaces, just about any ten-minute walk will help you clear your head and boost your endorphins (which, in turn, reduce stress hormones).
4. Take a Deep Breath
When it comes to nourishing the body, any yogi can tell you that the breath (also known as “life force” or pranayama) plays an important role. This is something that’s actually backed up by medical research. By making your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed, breathing exercises can help to trick your body into relaxing.
Thanks to an extra boost of oxygen, breathing exercises (or even just taking a couple of deep breaths) can help to relieve stress and make you feel calmer. Deep breathing helps us to calm down by stimulating the parasympathetic reaction, while shallow breathing – a marker of stress – has been found to do the opposite.
Breathing exercises are even believed to have the potential to change the expression of some genes, and have been proven in clinical research to aid some of the systems that are harmed by stress – such as your blood pressure.
While deep breathing exercises can feel a little strange at first, they eventually become second nature. They come with the advantage that they can be done anywhere, at any time, and require no equipment or investments. You can do them at work, while commuting or at home on your sofa.
If you want to get back to center, a short visualisation is an easy solution. Guided imagery can elicit a strong relaxation response.
All you have to do is get comfortable – wherever you are – and picture your favourite beach, a holiday, or any other peaceful scene. Even visualising yourself achieving a long-term goal or some type of fantasy can do the job!
Read All About It
- Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program.
- Music Therapy and Stress Reduction Research.
- Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women.
- Effects of Low-Dose Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBST-ld) on Working Adults.
6. Mindful Snacking
Eating when stressed isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
The gut is a major mediator of the stress response, and lots of data supports a huge connection between the gut and the brain – also known as the ‘gut-brain axis’. Your gut is the largest organ in your immune system, and stress is known to be a phenomenon mediated by the brain and the immune system.
Feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment is one of the most stressful things your brain can experience, so there’s nothing wrong with picking up a healthy and filling snack like a hard-boiled egg, an apple or a handful of nuts. Go and sit somewhere peaceful to eat your snack – don’t eat it in front of the computer. Pay attention to how the food makes you feel, and focus on its texture and flavour. In this way, snacking can become a type of mindfulness.
For some, anxiety can be a symptom of low blood sugar, so a snack can bring the added advantage of bringing your levels back up. Even in those who don’t have diabetes, blood sugar can really affect your mood (though obviously not to the same degree).
For more information about yoga and de-stressing, check out Need2Know’s Everyday Yoga: The Essential Guide, which will introduce Yoga and its benefits, history and different styles before going on to include information on: using Yoga as a preventative medicine; using Yoga for flexibility and back pain; using Yoga to reduce stress levels; Yoga for mums; Yoga for children, teachers and parents; Yoga to stay youthful and Yoga for the elderly. For further information about stress check out Need2Know’s Stress the Essential Guide. We have all the information you need, whether you’re a seasoned yogi, searching for relaxation or just a curious reader.