Most of us will experience stress and anxiety to some degree at some point in our lives, some of us will experience it more than others, and for many varying reasons. And while a little stress is necessary for adaptation and growth, chronic stress and anxiety can have detrimental effects on both the body and mind. As causes of stress and/or anxiety vary depending on the person or the situation, it’s fair to say there’s no ‘one’ solution that’s right for everybody, but there are however some things we can do to give ourselves the best chance of minimising the negative impact of stress in our daily lives.
Stop Scrolling Social Media
Social media platforms can be a useful tool for staying in touch with friends and family, and sharing your experiences with the people you care about. They’re also an incredibly addictive way to waste your time. Most of us know that what many people post on their social media platforms are merely highlights of their otherwise normal lives, though what we often fail to notice is the negative impact this has on our feelings of self worth, our happiness and the way in which we tend to see the world.
TIP: Make it less convenient to access your social media applications, and turn off notifications. A lot of the time we can pull our phone from our pocket and begin scrolling without even realising! Removing social media apps from your home screen, or putting them in folders within folders can give you just a few seconds to think about what you’re doing and offer a chance to break the habit.
Stop Watcing/Reading The News
The content of a news broadcast or newspaper will rarely fill your mind with happy and positive thoughts. The stories of crises and people in suffering can often leave us feeling afraid and depressed, while the less ‘serious’ news stories of general misery and misfortune often serve only to promote a culture of hearsay and gossip. It’s hardly your daily dose of feel good!
While we shouldn’t necessarily ignore what happens in the outside world, we should take the time to recognise what is and what isn’t within our control, and then choose exactly what we give our time, attention and energy to – those things within our control, that have the greatest impact to our lives right now.
TIP: Use your time wisely. Actively seek out information that genuinely interests you through books, articles or videos, and that broadens your understanding and increases your knowledge while having a positive impact in your life and that of those you care about.
Moderate Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a substance found most commonly in coffee, tea and energy drinks that stimulates the central nervous system. While it has the effect of making us feel more energised and alert, it doesn’t actually provide the body with any available nutrients for energy. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response. This increases the levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinepherine, which in turn can increase feelings of stress and anxiety.
TIP: Those particularly sensitive to caffeine or who currently struggle with anxiety would do best to avoid caffeine by switching to decaffeinated alternatives or limit daily consumption of caffeinated drinks to 1 serving before midday.
Get Some Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply about being present, and aware of the here and now. Most of us spend our days dashing from one task to the next, caught up in our thinking, and rarely appreciating the moment. Taking a step back from our busy schedules and the sometimes relentless pace of life can be hard to do, yet even just a few minutes of mindfulness, can make a big difference to how we feel.
Though there are many times we experience greater presence and awareness, often spontaneous moments of flow that occur without us even realising, there are some simple ways we can actively seek to find that same presence of mind in our everyday lives. Whether we chose to sit and meditate for a few minutes each morning, stop to take a few breaths and check in with the body before each to a meal, or set aside a few minutes to take a walk outside and listen to our surroundings, simply stopping to observe the moment and the mind as it is, can do a lot for our stress levels, our mood, and subsequently those around us.
TIP: Try some simple meditation. Take a few minutes of your day to sit undisturbed, with your eyes closed, to take a few deep breaths and then simply focus your attention on the natural rhythm and feel of the breath in the body. Allow your thoughts to come and go, and if you realise you’ve been distracted, simply return your focus back to the breath. Sit for as little or as long as you’re comfortable.
Move Your Body
No post talking about reducing stress would be complete without talking about exercise. From a brisk walk, or flowing yoga session, to heavy lifting or a high intensity CrossFit workout, exercise in it’s many forms does great things for the body and mind. Exercise, that is movement that raises the heart rate beyond resting levels, triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that make us feel good. It’s also a great way to switch off from the daily routine, to bring focus to your breathing and truly experience the present moment.
TIP: When it comes to relief from stress and anxiety, what you do is not nearly as important as that you do something, and do it regularly. Prioritise time each day, as little as 10 minutes would do if that’s all you have, and choose an activity that you enjoy and that feels like fun!