Feeling fraught? Time to do something about that. These techniques will help ease your anxiety, says Karen Fittall.
Stress is so common that almost three out of four Australians say it’s having at least some impact on their physical health and wellbeing. If you’re one of them, take heart – some strategies really do work to help you feel calmer. And that’s good news because it’s not how often stressful events occur in your life that affects your health, it’s how you and your body react that matters. Here’s how to stress less, using 10 novel techniques.
The Quick Fix
WHEN YOU NEED TO FEEL LESS STRESSED IMMEDIATELY:
Your stress levels will fall by as much as 68 per cent in as little as six minutes. The reason reading works so well as a stress reliever is because it requires concentration, and that distraction has a very real knock-on effect for your heart rate and how ‘tense’ your body feels.
Chew Some Gum
After 10 minutes you’ll feel less stressed. Chewing a piece of gum lowers salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is one marker of psychological stress. How? It’s likely thanks to the way the chewing action increases blood flow to the brain. For the best effect, chew with a little bit of force.
Start At Some Trees
They don’t even have to be real to be effective. Just looking at a ‘green’, nature-filled photograph or screensaver will do the trick, according to a 2015 study. Why? Looking at trees and foliage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s ‘rest’ functions.
Make Some Art
It doesn’t matter whether it’s colouring, painting or playing with modelling clay -after 45 minutes your cortisol levels will be significantly lower due to the creative effort. And that’s regardless of whether you’ve made art before, or how successful the end result Is. One explanation Is that the decisions involved in making art means negative thoughts get replaced with happier ones.
Wash The Dishes
That can zap your stress levels instantly, as long as you make a conscious effort to pay attention to what you’re doing by zeroing in on the smell of the soap, the warmth of the water and the feel of the dishes. It works because it’s a simple way to practise mindfulness, which helps you to focus only on the present moment.
The Long-Term Strategy
BUILD UP YOUR RESISTANCE TO STRESS BY:
Drinking Black Tea
You’ll feel about 20 per cent calmer when you’re faced with stressful situations, after six weeks of drinking the tea daily. Researchers are still trying to work out why, but suspect it’s due to the way some of the ingredients in black tea (a variety of tea rather than just tea without milk) affect neurotransmitters in the brain.
Switching Your Email Off
Not permanently – just so that you only log in, check and respond to your emails in chunks, three times a day. When you do that, rather than reading them as soon as they hit your inbox, you’ll start to feel less stressed in about a week.
Reading and sending emails increases cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate, so the fewer times a day you do it, the better.
Helping Other People
Think you’re too stressed to help other people solve their own problems? Think again. Over time showing support to others can help you react less negatively to the things that stress you out, perhaps because doing so helps keep your mind off your own worries.
Resisting The Urge To Vent
IT MIGHT TAKE A BIT OF PRACTICE, BUT IT PAYS OFF. RESEARCH PROVES THAT PEOPLE WHO REGULARLY SPEND TIME TALKING ABOUT DAILY STRESSORS ACTUALLY FEEL MORE STRESSED, NOT LESS, AS A RESULT. THE REASON? VENTING OFTEN MAKES YOU FEEL LESS SATISFIED ABOUT THE SITUATION, COMPARED TO HOW YOU FELT BEFOREHAND.
Taking A Probiotic
Pick one that contains the Bifidobacterium longum strain and take it for four weeks. When people did that, they reported feeling less tense and their levels of a stress-related hormone fell too, say researchers. Gut bacteria send signals to the brain that influence mood, so the probiotic may work by tweaking the mix of bacteria to be ‘healthier’.