• Jenn Carpenter

5 ways to reduce stress

We all experience stress. It's part of our body's way of protecting ourselves, which is a good thing, but not if it starts to take over our emotions and thoughts all of the time. Some people live much of their day in a stressful state. They feel like the world is against them, they are anxious and tired, they feel like they live in a state of lack. They experience their world where negativity and negative responses are the learned reactions to events and other people. It's hard to break out of this state but it can be done, although not straight away.

1: Notice what you say

You have an internal voice and an external voice. What does your inner voice say to you the moment you wake up? Is it negative? Is it a worry or a concern or dread? Make a conscious effort to change your first thought into a positive one. Try 'Today I am going to let things be' or 'Today I'm going to be positive/patient/kind/loving'. Then pop it in your phone as a reminder to come up throughout the day, or write it on a note near to your work desk or on the fridge. Say it aloud to yourself throughout the day. All our thoughts are energy and if you say them out loud, they somehow help us to embed it into our subconscious.

2: Notice something of beauty

When you feel yourself getting angry for no reason, being impatient with someone over a little thing, your heart beat increasing with a fearful but untrue thought, these are your stress responses kicking in. First of all, stop and notice this then say to yourself, 'I'm having a stressful response'. Try not to say, 'I'm stressed' because your body will think it is even more so. Also, don't direct your thoughts to blame someone or something else, don't say, 'You're stressing me out'. You have to stop and notice how you are reacting (this is part of the mindfulness approach to noticing your own reactions). Once you notice you are having a stressful response, stop and find something in your environment that is beautiful or part of nature. It might be a photo of your child, a flower in your vase, the view from the window towards the sky. This will help your parasympathetic system take over and start to calm you.

3: Breathe

We're breathing all the time, I know, and this is an unconscious function of your body to keep you alive. Try noticing your breathing first (it is fast, shallow, up in your chest?) and then regulate it. Start by counting your in-breath for 3-4 seconds then counting your out-breath for 3-4 seconds. Then notice how there's a little pause at the end of the in-breath and the out-breath. Even doing this for just one minute sends the message to your brain that you are less stressed and you will find your body reacts by feeling calmer again. You can get apps on your phone to remind you to stop and mindfully breathe but even better if you can do this for yourself when you notice you need to.

4: Move your body

I know when I'm feeling stressed because when I walk anywhere, I walk really quickly. Sometimes I feel like I just need to burn off all those negative reactions and let my head get rid of worries by exercising. You might feel that all you need to do is stretch or stand up. If your heart is racing fast, doing something more energetic might not feel right for you. By going outside and breathing in the cool air, even just for a few minutes, it can help slow down your heart rate.

5: Hug

Human touch is essential to our well-being. It brings a sense of comfort, warmth, security and belonging. Often, when we're feeling stressed, our mind tricks us into feeling as though we're on our own with all of this. So going to a loved one or a pet and giving them a hug helps a lot. And if you live on your own, you can give yourself a hug too.

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