It’s not a controversial statement to say that most of us would like to be less stressed. Trying to reduce it, however, can feel like an exercise in futility. Surprisingly, there are some simple things you can do to reduce the level of stress in your life, from planning the day ahead to changing the way you think about food, which has the added benefit of reducing the cholesterol in your diet. And that’s not the only significant health benefit involved: stress can increase the likelihood problems such headaches or muscle spasms, so reducing it can help with these as well. Stress can also have a long-term effect on overall mental health, leading to depression or low self-esteem, making lower stress levels good for mind as well as body.
You Are What You Eat
Firstly, switching up your diet can not only reduce your feelings of stress, but also provide bonus health benefits like reducing the cholesterol in your diet. Green, leafy vegetables, for example, are full of dopamine, which helps you stay calm. Toss up a spinach-rich salad with lunch to feel the benefits. It also contains fibre, which is thought to contribute to a low cholesterol diet. If you’re worried about your levels, you can find out other easy ways to lower cholesterol here.
Other stress-busting foods include avocado and bananas, both full of potassium, which can help keep your blood pressure low. Alternatively, steam some folic acid-rich asparagus, another mood-boosting vegetable. Swap your traditional comfort foods for these healthier options for at least 21 days in order to help cement the habit, and re-programme your brain to reach for the blueberries (high in antioxidants to repair cells) rather than the junk food whenever you’re under pressure. Of course, a little bit of chocolate when you feel like it is no bad thing either.
Stretch It Out
If it’s impossible to completely cut out the causes of stress from your life, exercising is a fantastic coping strategy that can help you handle the effects. Whether you’re walking to the shops or challenging your friends to a badminton tournament, any kind of exercise can be a great stress reliever. This is because it releases endorphins, which improve your mood, act as completely natural painkillers and even help you sleep better. And an improved night’s sleep is key to reducing your stress levels.
Gentle stretching can be a great way to introduce exercise into your routine, helping calm you and your body down after a busy day, or wake you up in the mornings. Try some gentle sun salutations or a class in your local neighbourhood.
Writing down your worries can be a great way to reduce stress, and you can compartmentalise your problems with To Do lists. However, if you’re anxious about the future, the easiest solution is to plan for it. This doesn’t mean that you need to create detailed spreadsheets for every event, complete with colour-coded downtime (unless you want to), but it does mean planning for events that are likely to trigger your stress.
For example, while holidays may seem one of the least stressful parts of the year, last-minute arrangements, rain and remembering to pack everything can elevate your stress levels. Take a moment to yourself, listen to your favourite mood music and write a couple of simple lists that you can go through and check off when the time comes to leave. To reduce your stress even further, you could opt for a holiday where the hard parts like where the tent poles go is done for you. Glamping is a hassle-free way to connect with nature.