Stress levels across the globe are at an all-time high. And we’re not surprised. In 2017 we’re expected to excel at work, maintain a social life, engage in politics, build a decent body, appear sane and scrape by on an overdraft.
But there are a few easy ways to bring some serenity back to your life. We spoke to leading experts to collate a few tips, tricks and life hacks that can help restore at least an ounce of calm.
Don’t Eat Your Feelings
You are what you eat, so shovelling crap in your chops isn’t going to give you the best start at feeling calm and centred.
After a carb hit? Swap the chips for wholewheat pasta. A study in the Journal Of Clinical & Experimental Research shows that complex carbs help boost serotonin, the chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance.
Vitamins are equally vital to keeping you peppy. Researchers at the University of Alabama found that Vitamin C slows the secretion of stress hormones.
Don’t Smoke Them Either
As the old saying (kind of) goes: ‘there’s no stress without smoke’. Puffing away is more likely to be putting you down than picking you up, says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Women are better at seeking support from their social circle, but men will try to self-medicate stress with cigarettes.”
The European Board for Research on Tobacco found that nicotine, in fact, suppresses stress-fighting serotonin, thereby increasing anxiety and cravings for another cigarette.
Let’s Get Physical
Believe it or not, exercise can boost the brain as well as the body. Half an hour of high-intensity exercise lowers stress levels more than working out for longer at a moderate pace, and the benefits last three times as long, according to a University of Missouri study.
But whatever you do, don’t push too hard. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, overtraining elevates cytokine levels in the blood, a potential shortcut to panic stations.
Work Work Work Work Work
Unsurprisingly, the number one cause of male stress is the office. Rather than mutter to yourself at the coffee machine, chat it over with a friend. Researchers at the University of Bristol found that when caffeine-loading as part of conversation, stress levels dipped.
Allen Elkin, author of Stress Management for Dummies also advises bringing the outdoors in with a desk plant. “It’s nurturing, it doesn’t take up much space, and while you’re watering it, the world is not about you, which can be a huge psychological relief.”
Mind The Gap
Mindfulness is more than just a marketing buzzword. Zeroing in on your thoughts, emotions and feelings can calm the brain and help you de-stress.
Dr Tanya Bernstein from the Priory Hospital in north London says this can even be done when out and about. “Take a whole minute of your journey to stop, breathe and collect your thoughts. Pay attention to your breath and notice the thoughts that try to pull your attention away. Being able to see your thoughts in this way helps you prioritise what is important.”
What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Sex does the mind and body good. That’s not just us saying that – researchers from Cornell University have found that it really does.
Orgasming releases beta-endorphins, the body’s natural de-stresser. So whether you do it with a partner or alone, getting off can help you get back on track.
Do Your Homework
Stress can affect our sleep, so when you find yourself tossing and turning all night, try some reverse psychology. “Vow to stay awake for 30-minutes,” says Bill Roedel, a professor of psychology at Bastyr University in Washington. “By removing the stress of not being able to sleep, you can relax enough to nod off.”
If that doesn’t work, cross off creased shirts from your to-do list. Jay Winner, author of Stress Management Made Simple, found that the repetitive motions of ironing can send you into a trancelike state and block out stressful thoughts.