De-stress anywhere: these three practices can help you in stressful situations
These days stress is almost a prerequisite for modern life. Between juggling a social life, climbing the corporate ladder, getting enough shut-eye and making it to the gym, the list goes on. It’s no wonder that the World Health Organization is calling “stress and anxiety a significant problem of our time1.
While stress to some degree is normal and has been proven to actually enhance productivity and wellbeing, in excess it has been linked to the development of a number of serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and autoimmune conditions2. Life First Data from over 30,000 health assessments shows that those in the highest stress, anxiety or depression categories often have several other risks factors such as excess body weight, poor dietary habits and poor sleep3.
Whilst there’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to stress, it is important to be aware of what your triggers are and what management method works best for you.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
A Harvard study reported that those who participated in diaphragmatic breathing for an eight week period had improved mental health4. Never heard of it? It’s also known as deep belly where the focus is to take deep breaths into your diaphragm which helps lower your heart rate. This inadvertently regulates your blood pressure and most importantly lowers the body's production of cortisol. Plus the best bit is you can practice it almost anywhere.
2. Working up a sweat
It’s common knowledge that exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness. A meta-analysis of six studies of 262 people, confirmed that exercise has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms5. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as a simple walk around the block, exercise intensity should be 70% of VO2 max meaning a moderate to intense workout.
Not only that but studies report that physical activity is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall brain function 6. Which can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or your ability to concentrate.
3. Having a giggle
Cue the laughter, funniest home videos and terrible dad jokes. A study conducted by the Indiana State University School of Nursing has linked a positive relationship between laughter and stress. Laughter relieves nervousness and anxiety as it increases your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, all while increasing the endorphins that are released by your brain7.
Not only that but having the giggles can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms. So next time you’re feeling a little uneasy catch-up with your family and friends or watch your favourite stand-up comedian.
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