Stress is horrible. There are no two ways about it.
Pretty much everyone knows what it feels like to be stressed, we have so much of it in our daily lives that half the time we don’t even notice that we are stressed.
But how many people actually know how to reduce stress (I mean besides packing up and moving to a secluded island)?
Yes, stress is a natural response.
It’s our body kicking into fight or flight mode, dumping a whole heap of adrenaline and cortisol into our system to allow our body to function better (faster response, ability to think quicker).
It does this by taking resources from less urgent areas of our body, such as our digestive system, and redirecting them to our ‘get the hell out of here’ systems such as our muscles and brain.
Back in our lovely cave days, this response allowed us to run from wild animals and fight off others when they tried to steal our food/families/whatever we had to steal.
The issue today is, we don’t usually have a lion waiting outside our cave to attack us, but our body has now started confusing other stressful situations with these life-threatening ones.
Got a meeting with the boss at work you’re worried about because they’ve been laying off staff and you’re not sure if you’re going to be next?
Kick up the adrenaline and cortisol.
Got a text that makes you angry?
Hello, adrenaline and cortisol.
Stuck in traffic and running late (again), cue adrenaline and cortisol.
However, instead of these ‘fight or flight’ responses being every now and then when we go out hunting, they are now multiple times a day.
Our adrenals are in overdrive and they are pumping more adrenaline and cortisol around our body than we know what to do with.
Which takes its toll.
It means our body can ‘misfire’ a fight or flight response which can result in a panic attack.
Cortisol has been linked to life threatening conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and anxiety.
It can even affect the way we digest our food (remember how our body takes away resources from digestion to deal with the fight or flight) and leave us addicted to the ‘high’ adrenaline provides looking for a sugar fix or caffeine kick to keep us going.
But what can we do about it? Stress is part of life isn’t it?
Well, yes and no.
There are a lot of stress inducing aspects of our life that we can’t avoid, including my incredibly clumsy 3 year old who seems to fall over just about everything in his path.
However, there are some exercises we can include in our lives to reduce our stress.
I don’t know about you but I suck at meditation, so while it is said to be amazing for reducing stress, I’m not going to suggest it because I can’t do it.
I’m meditationally challenged. But, here are 5 things you can do to reduce stress and they all take less than 5 minutes. Winning.
1 – Go Outside and Face The Sun
This one is my favorite and the one I use the most often. It makes such a massive difference.
Taking yourself outside (or to a window if you can’t get outdoors) and breathing in the fresh air has an incredible calming effect.
Closing your eyes and facing towards the sun gives you a nice little boost of Vitamin D (thanks sunshine) and the warmth helps take your mind off whatever is happening, even if it is just for a few minutes.
Also, the break in the routine you’re in of thinking and stressing, helps you to shift your focus and allows you to take that little time out that can help redirect and refocus your thoughts when you have to get back to it.
2 – Make a To-Do List
I love lists.
They make me happy and they make me feel like I’ve got my shit together (even if I don’t… at least it’s in a pile).
Making a list gets things out of your head and onto paper, allowing you to actually see in structured form what it is you need to achieve.
More often than not what I think I need to do versus what I actually need to do is usually quite far off, with me thinking I have way more to do than I really do.
I love lists so much that I create them and share them with others.
Check out Project Hot Mess Planners to find all the latest lists I’ve been making (and fun planners too!).
3 – Smile
Smiling helps release serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter.
Serotonin works against cortisol (stress) and helps you relax and feel good.
Even if you fake smile, there is still a trigger for serotonin. Winner!.
Alternatively, you can sit in front of YouTube and watch funny cat videos for an hour or so.
4 – Make a Cup of Tea (or a Pot)
There’s something so relaxing about a cup of tea.
I don’t know if it’s the aroma or the warmth of it, but there’s something special about the process of making a cup of tea and then sitting and drinking it while it’s still hot!
Extra points if you use leaf tea (because it’s so much tastier) and if you brew your tea in a pot. Yum!
You could even go for calming teas like Chamomile or Peppermint but I believe a good old cup of English Breakfast works the same.
5 – Get Up, Move and Breathe
Staying in the same place, in the same position and in the same ‘zone’ is just going to make your stress worse.
Get up, move from where you are to a different place and focus on your breathing.
Even better if you can go outside and face the sun (just for a few minutes for those of us who burn at the thought of UV rays).
Just simply moving your physical presence to another location can sometimes be enough to break a negative and stressful thought pattern.
Take the opportunity to shake out your arms and legs (remember like you did in school??) and roll your head around, stretching your muscles and always focusing on big deep breaths.
Feel better yet? You should!
These little stress busters may seem incredibly simple but they are powerful. Take the time to do just one or two of them during your day and see how much of a difference it can make.