Helpful tips to beat stress and feel more relaxed

Posted on January 25, 2017 by Helen Field

Relaxing girl Relaxation doesn't always have to cost money. In fact some of the easiest ways to help you relax simply involve switching your mind from chaos to calm. Take a moment now to read this blog and discover a few easy ways to beat stress and feel more relaxed.

A moment of meditation

Our use of meditation is thought to date back to as early as 3000 BCE. As well as helping us to slow down and take more notice of the environment around us , studies suggest that mindfulness techniques are able to help reduce blood pressure, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Meditation or mindfulness helps us to relax by reducing beta waves in the brain.

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Sit or lie down in a quiet room. Try closing your eyes and breathing in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold that breath for 7 seconds then breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat 4 times. The idea of this exercise is to slow down your breathing to reduce your heartrate and calm you down. It's called the 4-7-8 exercise.

Think positive thoughts

Some working environments can cause many of us to become stressed and feel anxious. It's also easy to get bogged down in your own world. Taking the focus off yourself and putting your life into perspective can be an effective way of bringing you back to neutral and helping you keep a positive attitude.

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What are the positives in your life? What has made you smile recently? Positive thinking enables you to step outside the situation, put it into perspective, and assess how bad it really is. Perhaps you do have a lot to be grateful for. Don't think about the negatives. You might be surprised how effective this can be in turning your mood around.

Beat stress, wake-up your endorphins

Walking, jogging, gardening, swimming - as long as you're getting your blood pumping and endorphins flowing, that's what matters. Why? Because raising your heartrate can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, and boosting the release of endorphins can help reduce the chance of having depression.

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Get out in the fresh air. Feel the breeze upon your skin. Refreshing isn't it? Taking a walk in your surroundings helps you take your mind off worries and gives you the opportunity to focus on other things. What's that dog sniffing? How far have the builders got with these new houses? Look how orange the leaves are on that tree. In the meantime your heart's getting some good circulation and your brain's releasing those 'feel good' chemicals to improve your mood and feel more relaxed.

Take timeout from tech

How many times a-day do you check your mobile phone? If you're in the average, you will have checked it around 27 times by the end of today. That's just checking it. What about touching, tapping and swiping? These tally up to 2,617 times by the end of today, according to researcher Dscout. All this constant interruption can have a stressful effect on us. But why?

Technology has evolved very quickly in relation to how our brains work. In other words, "our modern skulls house a Stone Age mind1". Taking a break from all things digital can have a surprising effect. Research shows that "more than a third of French workers used their devices to do work out-of-hours every day2". To help "tackle the so-called 'always-on' work culture, French workers now have the legal right to avoid looking at work emails outside of office hours.

If you like looking at your tablet or mobile before bed, you might not be getting the good night's sleep you want to. The blue light in LEDs interferes with the body's biological clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. This blue light makes us feel awake, just like it does naturally during daytime. There are a few handy apps for Android and Apple you can use which filter out this disruptive blue light to help you get a good night's sleep.

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Why not try unplugging for a while? Forget screens, buttons, pixels and emoticons and rediscover what life was like before the Information Age. Hopefully you will feel calmer, less stressed and more able to focus on other activities. You may even find that a social life with direct interaction with people is more exciting than a digital one, who knows! See what a digital detox does for you.

Soften your lighting
Ever noticed how relaxing candlelight can be? The cosy glow and the comforting warmth candles give off create the ideal atmosphere for a relaxing evening.

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Light some candles and whether you're watching TV, having a meal, or reading, it can make a real difference to the room and how you feel.

Healthy food fuels happiness

Just like a car, different substances fuel different parts of your body. If you're lacking in one substance it can affect your body's ability to function. Eating a variety of beneficial foods can help. So which healthy foods can provide a good range the nutrients you need?

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Leafy green vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, kale, cavolo nero, Brussels sprouts.
Whole grains - brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, wild rice, bulgur.
Legumes - black beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas, soya beans, lentils. 
Eggs, meat, fish - chicken, turkey, beef, liver, kidney, clams, crab, salmon, mackerel.
Dried fruit, seeds, and nuts - raisins, peanuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds.

These foods contain B vitamins. They are known for their anti-stress properties and their ability to balance mood and calm the nervous system. Vitamin B6 is particularly good for this.

1 Phrase suggested by William Allman. Mentioned in Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer by Leda Cosmides & John Tooby: http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html 
2 Research by French research group Eleas, October 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/dec/31/french-workers-win-legal-right-to-avoid-checking-work-email-out-of-hours


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