Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder, which may have derived from stress and can also worsen with stress. I had been through an extremely stressful time, with close family members passing away suddenly, combined with the stress of running my own business.
Because of this, I think it’s important to monitor my stress levels and find ways to deal with stress so that it doesn’t overwhelm me.
April marks the start of Stress Awareness Month which takes place every year to increase awareness around the causes and treatments for stress.
Stress can come in many forms and can affect us both physically and mentally. It could be anything from money worries, relationships, illness, work, to looking after the kids! Some stress is more severe than others, but it’s important to realise that small stresses can build up and impact us more than we may realise.
We know now more than ever, with the impact of Covid-19 on the world, that people will be feeling increasingly stressed and worrying about the future, but we want to help and support you!
We understand stressful situations can’t always be avoided but the way we manage them will certainly help us to overcome some of the effects of stress.
Here are our top tips for de-stressing:
Have some 'me time'
It’s the perfect opportunity at the moment to schedule in some much needed ‘me-time’ to truly focus on yourself and de-stress. Founder of Bliss Sanctuary for Women in Bali, Zoë Watson says: “When was the last time you did something for yourself? As women we take on many roles as wives, mothers, aunties, sisters, bosses and colleagues and we can end up putting our own health and wellbeing aside. You deserve time to stop and take a break, refill your cup and reconnect to yourself. When taking time out for yourself, you need to make sure the activity is solely focused on something that will energise you and give you life. Even if it’s just five minutes a day; reading a book, having a massage or running yourself a bath. By really taking some me-time you’ll feel more refreshed, healthier and happier!”
Download an app
Technology to the rescue! There are so many great apps available to download that focus on your mental health and help to reduce stress. The NHS has recommended some useful ones in the link below:
One of my favourite apps for mindfulness is HeadSpace - https://www.headspace.com/.
These are easy to access from your phone at home – just make sure you have some quiet space to use them in, away from the kids and loud noises!
Being active such as going for a walk, doing a home workout or taking part in yoga is another way you can reduce stress at home. Lillie Hussain Yoga says “creating a routine at home is a huge part of maintaining my positive mindset. Keep your mind and your body active during the time and you will radiate positivity.” Lillie’s top yoga poses for stress relief are: Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Dancer’s Pose, Easy Pose and Upward Facing Dog.
Avoid unhealthy habits
It can be easy to fall into bad habits when you are feeling low or stressed, especially if your cupboard is full of alcohol and sweet treats! Addiction Expert and Founder of The Rob Hill Foundation Chris Hill says that “Bad habits may provide temporary release but isn’t a long-term solution. Instead you should limit the amount of unhealthy substances you have in your home such as alcohol, cigarettes and sugary food to avoid being tempted.”
Try to be positive
It’s important to look for the positives in life and be grateful for everything you have. In these times we can fall into negative and worried mindsets, but there are some ways we can avoid this. Each morning you could write down three things you are thankful for, reminding yourself of all the amazing things and people you have in your life.
Vicky Pattison says: “I’m trying to keep busy and positive… I’m focusing my energies on being conscious of what I am putting in my body, (healthy body, healthy mind) keeping moving, nourishing my mind through reading and learning, reaching out to others and helping our vulnerable members of the community in any ways that I can and keeping my days as varied as possible!”
Calming breathing exercises
Jo Cruickshanks, Founder of Breathery.co says: “When we are stressed, the fight or flight part of our brain and nervous system is running the show. Add to this caffeine, whinging kids, a global pandemic and working from home and we can be in 'fight or flight' which actually starts to feel like our new normal. The whole body is literally waiting for the tiger to pounce because the brain is sending signals of danger. Of course, there is no tiger or no immediate threat - but the body doesn't understand that. The breath is a gateway to what is called the parasympathetic nervous system - which is the system that can regulate the whole nervous system and bring calm to the body and mind. When we access that parasympathetic system, the body goes into relaxation and down regulates, meaning that we aren't getting triggered by the smallest thing. We can learn how not to sweat the small stuff with our breath.
Here's a simple tool that will take you three minutes and will help the tigers disappear:
- The first thing to check is that your mouth is firmly closed. Our noses are the best tool to breathe with generally, especially with the current situation because they offer a natural filter to germs and bacteria coming into the body.
- Three times per day, stop, sit down on a chair or the floor, or stand wherever you are and simply slow your breath down, allowing the air to come gently in and out of the body - no forcing. Feel like you are sipping in air with a straw through your nostrils - notice the air passing through the body.
- If slowing down the breath feels OK, focus on the breath moving into the whole ribs and belly on the inhale and relaxing on the exhale. Don't worry about sucking in the belly at any point - we must let the diaphragm area around the ribs relax.
- If that feels OK to you, then try counting in breath for four seconds, hold for four second, then out for four seconds and hold again for four seconds. The more you do this, the slower your breathing will become, and you can extend the count of four to six, then eight and beyond. It's good to close your eyes and just allow your feel-good chemicals to flood the system as you access the part of your brain which brings calm to the body. Repeat the box breath three to four times and in a week you will feel a real difference. Box breathing has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to regulate stress in the body and will also help to make your breath more efficient the rest of the time.
- If you feel a little edgy or panicky slowing your breath down, it's normal - it just means your body is a little stressed before you started and your CO2 levels need to adjust - but the more you just slowly allow your breath to slow into the belly, you will change those levels naturally.”
Jo is offering free classes during lock down, so sign up to her newsletter to get the dates and times at breathery.co.
We hope these tips help you to relieve some stress this month!