In 2014/15, stress accounted for 35 percent of all work-related ill health cases and 43 percent of all working days lost due to sickness. In today’s manic modern world, people are feeling increasingly overwhelmed by various pressures, commitments and worries and looking after our mental wellbeing is more important than ever.
We know how difficult it can be to find the time to take a step back and relax however, so to help you out we’ve put together four easy, natural ways to relieve stress.
When you’ve had a stressful day at work, it can be tempting to spend the evening watching TV in bed with a glass of wine. Exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing but it’s actually one of the most effective stress relievers available to us. It releases powerful endorphin chemicals in the brain which act like built-in mood lifters, and research suggests that the negative effects of stress on the body are exaggerated in people who are inactive. And if your worries are keeping you awake, exercising will also help you to sleep by tiring you out.
Meditation is a proven stress reliever that has been used for many years to help people deal with anxiety and improve their peace of mind and general wellbeing. It’s also an extremely simple and convenient way to calm yourself as you can do it in the comfort of your own home and it doesn’t require any equipment. One study found that after undergoing 20 minutes of meditation training every day for five days, people were less anxious and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. If you’re new to it, visit headspace.com to get started.
A good supply of nutrients such as essential vitamins, healthy fats, amino acids and antioxidants helps your brain to deal with stress more efficiently. Calcium and magnesium are important for relaxing muscles, relieving headaches and helping you to sleep – try wild-caught salmon, legumes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are also good for the brain and development, and oily fish such as sardines can help to stabilise moods. As for things to avoid, if you’re stressed you should keep your consumption of processed and sugary foods, alcohol and caffeine to a minimum, as they can increase anxiety, cause highs and lows throughout the day and interfere with your sleep.
Spending time outdoors and getting some fresh air is a great way to relieve stress and clear your head. Embracing nature is a key part of the Nordic wellness concept hygge, and in her book How to Hygge (Bluebird, £14.99), Signe Johansen says: “If your thoughts are clouded by anxiety, fear and stress then a getaway to a green wood, a walk by the sea or a gentle hike up a mountain does more to lift the spirits than any expensive handbag or latest must-have gadget could ever do.” For the best effects, seek out green spaces rather than just going for a walk into town.