Reduce your stress levels

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is Stress.  Stress affects most of us at some point in our lives and managing it at times can be tricky.  I’ve shared below five tips to support resilience and help manage stress.

Having some levels of stress in your body is essential for survival but having too much can lead to illness and anxiety.

By making some small tweaks to your lifestyle you can help reduce your stress levels and build up your resilience so you when difficult situations do arise you’re better placed to cope.

Here’s my top 5 tips to improve your mind and body

1.       Eat the right mood food

MIND, the mental health charity, carried out a Food and Mood project with 200 people and found that 88% said that changing their diet improved their mental health significantly.  26% said they saw reductions in mood swings, 26% in panic attacks and anxiety and 24% in depression. They also found that cutting down on food "stressors" and increasing "supporters" helped their mood.  The main stressors included saturated animal fats, which are high in both meat and dairy sugar, milk chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. Supporters included water, vegetables, fruit and omega-3-rich foods. Eating regularly and not skipping breakfast were also highlighted as ways to boost mental health.

2.       Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep and stress are closely linked, being stressed leads to problems sleeping and if you can’t sleep then you get more stressed.  Start by making your bedroom a tech free zone, make sure you wind down at least 45mins before going to bed.  Don’t eat late and avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.  Try going to bed and getting up at the same time even at weekends.

3.       Stress Bust

Take up an activity that you enjoy and helps you switch off.  While yoga and meditation are great ways to de-stress they don’t always work for everyone.  Try any kind of exercise, gardening, painting or baking - as long as you enjoy it.

4.       Be Mindful not MindFULL

Practising just 10 minutes of mindfulness a day is a great way to clear your mind of any worries or daily hassles.  It also helps strengthen your concentration, makes you more aware, and connects you to the present moment. If you don’t know where to start there are some great apps out there like Headspace or Insight Timer or why not try mindful walking when you are walking to work or on your way back from the school run.

5.       Breathe into it

When stress strikes try this simple breathing technique to help reduce the feeling quickly.  Start by breathing in through your nose as deeply as you can to a count of five.  Then gently exhale through your mouth to a count of five.   Focus on the breath.  Do this for five minutes gradually steadying your breathing.

If you are struggling with stress and are finding it hard to cope speak to your GP or contact support groups such as Mind