Stress and anxiety have become common place in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Before long the feeling of stress becomes so familiar that we no longer notice the constant pressurised feeling and it is only when we begin to experience full blown anxiety attacks that we realise it is time to slow down and take care of ourselves.
When our bodies go into crisis mode, we are no longer able to function optimally. The adrenaline rush that once pushed us to perform better, now impedes our functioning. Learning to relax and making use of relaxation techniques on a daily basis will not only help you cope with your stress, but contribute to your overall functioning and well-being.
For many of us the thought of relaxation conjures up an image of lying still on our backs, doing some deep breathing and muscle relaxation with a good thirty minutes to spare. While this form of relaxation is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself during times of stress, it is not the only way to relax and wind down.
Recognise your stress
Everyone requires a small amount of pressure or stress to do a job well. Recognise when your stress levels have taken a turn and are becoming obstacles to your well-being. Notice when you are skipping meals or eating badly, or when your sleep patterns change. Perhaps you are burning the midnight oil trying to get your projects done on time, or perhaps your mind simply won’t switch off and afford you some sleep. Either way, eating and sleeping well are essential to your well-being. Pay more attention and eat three good healthy meals a day. And make sure you get 6 – 8 hours of sleep a night.
Set aside time for yourself
Self-care is as important as meeting your deadlines and earning an income yet we tend to put self-care last on the list of “things to do”. Try bumping this up to the top of your priority list, let go of the guilt associated with giving yourself some time off give yourself a break. Make sure that you have some time in your day that you can relax, even if it is time to simply enjoy a cup of tea, or eat your lunch. Make sure you are not multitasking – rather take the time and enjoy your meal, allowing yourself some time to relax.
Learn to breathe
Every now and then, sit back close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. It doesn’t take long to do this but it does wonders for your body. Inhale deeply through your nose, count to five and then exhale slowly out your mouth. Try do this ten times to relax your nerves and bring down the stress levels.
Learn to stretch
Stretching increases blood flow and sends oxygen-rich blood to all your muscles. Doing a few good stretches often clears your thinking and lifts your mood. Try stretching your arms above your body as high as they can go. Stand up while you do this and try make yourself as tall as possible. Next, bend down and touch the floor. Hang there comfortably for the count of five and then slowly come up making sure that your neck and head are the last to lift. Lastly, roll your shoulders backwards and then forwards three times each and end by stretching your neck. Never roll your head, rather lower your right ear down to your right shoulder, then do the same with the left. Lastly bring your chin right own to your chest to give those neck / shoulder muscles a good stretch.
Make time for exercise, even if it is just a short brisk walk once a day. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. If you struggle to find time for this then couple your quality time with the kids or the dog with your need to exercise. A walk to the park and back, or playing ball with the kids will count as exercise too.
Practice positive thinking
Find yourself a positive mantra that you can use when you are feeling overwhelmed and negative. Using positive self-talk works wonders in reducing anxiety and stress levels. Make sure that you are saying something you believe – a positive thought needs to be believable to have power.
Spend time with those you love
Spend some quality time with your pets, your children or your partner. Do things that you enjoy and make sure you have fun. Laughter and positive feelings are often the most powerful preventative measure when it comes to reducing stress.
Every now and then pamper yourself!
Take some time out and spend some of your hard earned money on yourself. Go for a massage, or take a long hot bath. Anything that leaves you feeling cared for.
Clinical Psychologist Annabelle Young has extensive experience in working with people with depression, anxiety (including panic), adjustment difficulties, stress, trauma, PTSD, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem, grief and loss, interpersonal difficulties, as well as alcohol and drug use issues.