by Abby Jones, Alternative Healing School

We all live with stress. It can be as simple as a flurry of tension when our bus is late again or it can be longer-term, grinding stress of the sort triggered by life events such as divorce and redundancy. Stress provokes a reaction that releases stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline raises the heartbeat and blood pressure and encourages the release of glycogen, in case you need to fight or run. While this stress reaction works well to deal with immediate problems, it can cause serious health problems if it becomes chronic. Prolonged stress reduces the ability to ward off illness, and running in overdrive for too long usually results in severe fatigue. Other common symptoms include aching muscles, joint pain, headaches and irritability.

The simple stressbusters below can help you to control stress in your life rather than letting it control you.

Make Lists

Writing down everything that you have to do may seem to make things worse if the list goes on and on, but once everything is down on paper, it will help lessen the anxious thoughts in your head. It will also help you to feel in charge and focus on what you have to do.

Have a Bath

Light a candle or two and take a long bath with some deliciously scented bath oils or foam. Essential oils known for their ability to calm and relax include rose, lavender, chamomile, lemon and geranium.

Keep up Your Magnesium Levels

Magnesium has been described as nature’s tranquilliser. I can give you extra help in staying calm. Ensure your magnesium supplement has calcium in it as they are absorbed by the same mechanism in the body, and if this is taken up entirely by magnesium, you may end up missing out on calcium. Take 300 – 400 mg in the evening, or divide the dose between afternoon and evening. Or even better, eat magnesium-rich foods such as brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

Learn to Breathe

Breathing deeply (so that the stomach, rather than the chest, moves in and out) ought to be instinctive, but it often has to be re-learned. To breathe properly, use your diaphragm. You can find your diaphragm by sitting comfortably or lying on your back on the floor then placing your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your upper abdomen, just beneath your rib cage. When you breathe in and out, your left hand should remain still and only your right hand should move up and down. If your left hand is moving, your breathing is too shallow and you are not using your diaphragm as you should. Try to alter your breathing so that only your right hand moves.

Go For a Walk

Head for a park or some green space and let the simple experience of being outside clear your head and ease away tension.

Try Yoga

There are many different types of yoga from slow, gentle hatha yoga which focuses on breathing and stretching, to dynamic forms such as ashtanga and all are fantastic for counteracting stress.

Learn to Meditate

If you haven’t tried meditation before, start small, meditating for just a few minutes, working up to longer periods. Find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be disturbed, perhaps a peaceful garden or a relaxing room. Choose an object that you find interesting, perhaps a large shell or appealing painting. Focus your attention on the object, noting details. If you notice your mind wandering, refocus your awareness on your chosen object, let other thoughts go. Alternatively, instead of focusing on an object, you can focus on your breathing. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and tummy. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your thoughts wander, return your focus back to your breath.

Listen to Music

Music is a powerful way of changing your mood. Classical music has been shown to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and decreases stress hormone levels, but listening to any music that you love will trigger the release of feel-good neurochemicals such as dopamine. Select music that you find relaxing or that lifts your mood and keep it handy throughout the day.

Turn off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Control your exposure by turning off your phone when you’re relaxing, having a meal, or in a conversation. Turning off your phone before you go to bed at night can also help you to get a better night’s sleep. If you find it hard to resist checking messages or social media, leave the phone outside your bedroom, where you can’t reach it.

Live for Now

Try to live for the moment, to appreciate what is going on ‘right now’ and give it all of your attention. While you can’t get so focused on the present that you neglect your plans, life becomes much less stressful if you can get out of the habit of wishing your life away.