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8 Simple Ways to Reduce Feeling Stressed

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed?

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all experience stress at some point and the demands of modern living can often mean feeling overwhelmed multiple times in the day. And while we all assume this to be very normal (because, everyone is stressed right?) - the impact of 'chronic' or ongoing stress, is harmful to health.

What Causes Stress?

While we want to avoid it, stress is actually an important and innate biological response to help us survive against danger. For example, if we encountered a wild bear on a hike or attacker in the street, in order to stay alive, the body will respond by automatically becoming stressed. This is sometimes referred to as the 'fight or flight' response; helping us to either fight the danger or run away from it.

Prolonged Stress can Negatively Impact the Body

The problem we are faced with today however, is that we are constantly entering (and remaining) in this state of fight or flight, as the brain is unable to distinguish between a real threat and perceived threat. This might look like running late for work, having regular access to negative news, work pressures or various other demands from life.

The body wants to protect us against danger so will prioritise this stressful response over all other normal functions of the body, such as digesting food, getting decent sleep, and fighting infection.

While this is useful in the short run, when prolonged, stress can start to cause damage in the body.

Health Implications of Stress

Countless health concerns from anxiety and depression, complex gut issues, insomnia, burnout, infection, increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, obesity and even cancer, can be linked to ongoing stress being a contributing factor.

Here are 8 every day ways that you can help reduce feeling stressed and improve your overall health.

1. Prioritise Quality Sleep

Sleep is one of the most underrated tools for good health. While we sleep, the body and brain are hard at work repairing damaged cells, building better immune function, removing toxins, sorting memories, and protecting brain health. Adequate sleep (around 7-9 hours each night), is also associated with lowering inflammation or damage in the body, which is a key impact of stress. Quality sleep is just as important; be sure to maintain good sleep hygiene such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and blue light exposure from screens too close to bedtime.

2. Eat Wholesome Meals, Regularly

Long- term stress disrupts our hormone activity that amongst other things, can either suppress or increase hunger. Missing out on meals means you are potentially depleting your body of energy and essential nutrients. When we are stressed and feeling hungrier than normal, it’s not uncommon to reach for more highly processed and sugar laden foods than usual, to counteract the energy used when stressed. Sticking to regular meals that include a wide range of wholefoods, quality protein, and colourful fruits and vegetables, will contribute to further lowering inflammation in the body and support general health. Eating in a relaxed environment without distractions will further help lower how stressed you feel, allowing the body to digest food with more ease.

3. Spend Time Outdoors

While this one might seem difficult during the colder months, getting outside even in the winter sun encourages the body to relax and return to the non-stressed state, called 'rest and digest'. Prioritising this shift is so crucial to allow the body to recover and return to function as normal. It is in the rest and digest state that we properly digest food and eliminate waste, effectively prevent, and fight infection, and get adequate rest. In the same regard, spending time in green spaces is now commonly recommended to help de-stress and support our mood, with studies showing depressive and anxious symptoms improving in people taking up outdoor activities such as gardening.

4. Set Healthy Boundaries

It's important to try and recognise what might be causing stress on an ongoing basis. This can look different from person to person, but may involve unhealthy relationships, unmanageable work deadlines, spending too much time on tech, or taking on more than you can manage. Assessing how you spend your time and being vocal about how you feel can be an effective way to reduce the emotional load often associated with these concerns, allowing you to prioritise your needs better and stress less.

6. Take Rest Seriously

While sleep is hugely beneficial for the body, adequate rest during the day is just as important and will aid sleep, as you feel less ‘wired’ from a day’s stress.

Identify windows of time in your day that allow you to focus and slow-down in the moment, calming or preventing a stressful state that can otherwise become the norm. An example may be creating a peaceful morning routine for yourself before starting your day, or taking a proper lunch break away from your desk or looking at a screen.

7. Move Your Body

Exercise is not only linked to physical health but has also been shown to be hugely beneficial to our mental health. As mentioned earlier, stress prepares the body to fight a perceived danger. Our muscles become prepped to be used, ready to run away from a danger or stay and fight it. Engaging in physical movement can help trick the hard wiring within the body to reverse the stress response and go back to normal, assuming that the danger has been dealt with so the body can relax. In addition, exercise releases a set of happy hormones called endorphins, which are known to improve mood, further helping to reduce stress.

8. Prioritising 'Me Time'

In the busyness of everyday life, it can be easy to forget to take time out for enjoyment. This can however, be the simplest and most effective way to help de-stress and calm the body down.

Take the time to do more things for yourself that are simply for your own pleasure. This might include hobbies such as knitting, visiting a coffee shop, cooking for yourself, reading, or listening to your favourite music.

Not only will you feel better doing more of what you enjoy, being away from triggering encounters can ensure you are reducing the chances of your body entering the state of stress or calm the body down from any existing stressful feeling.

Upcoming Health Chat Event:

Topic: Sleep

Date: April 26, 2023 Time: 4.30 PM

Location: 200 Railton Road, London, SE24 0LT

Minal Sudra

Registered Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach

Minal is a registered nutritionist and trauma-informed wellbeing coach, passionate about helping others take ownership of their health. Escape the rain and join us over a cup of tea or coffee whilst we hear all about how we can improve our lifestyle and healing journey.


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