10 tips to help you deal with stressful times

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Are you feeling frazzled? Keep calm and...

1. Breathe!

Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious. Some simple breathing exercises can make a big difference if you make them part of your regular routine.

  • Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.

  • Breathe in slowly and deeply into your stomach through your nose, and slowly out through your mouth.

  • You should feel your stomach expanding with each in breath, rather than your chest.

  • As you breathe in, imagine breathing in peace and calm.

  • As you breath out, imagine breathing out stress and anxiety.

  • Repeat 10 times.

2. Meditate

Meditation is a tried and tested way of relaxing and calming the mind. Listen to a guided meditation, join a virtual class, have a go yourself.... There is a lot out there, and there will be something for everyone. Little and often is most beneficial e.g. 15 minutes every day.

3. Get creative

Do some drawing or painting, sewing or knitting, origami , topiary or anything that takes your fancy! Not only can it be fun and intensely satisfying to create something, but focusing fully on a particular task for any length of time helps calm the mind.

4. Sing

Singing brings joy to many people – but did you know that your passion for singing can lead to incredible benefits in your physical, emotional, and social health?

  • Singing strengthens the immune system....

  • Singing is a workout. …

  • Singing improves your posture. …

  • Singing helps with sleep. .

  • Singing is a natural anti-depressant. …

  • Singing lowers stress levels. …

  • Singing improves mental alertness. …

  • Singing can widen your circle of friends.

So sing alone, sing with others, sing in the shower, sing on the balcony, sing along to the radio, sing online with a choir, and see how good it can make you feel!

…... tum te tum te tum ...…

5. Laugh!

We've all heard the phrase 'laughter is the best medicine'. Well, it's so true!

Laughter is good for your health – just consider the following:

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

  • Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

  • Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

  • Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

6. Practise gratitude

Taking some time every day to think about all the things you are thankful for will help to boost your mood and put your struggles into perspective. Don't forget the little things – the simple pleasures that you might sometimes take for granted. You could make a mental list when you wake up each morning, or write down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of every day. Focusing on the positives in any situation actually rewires the brain and helps break old patterns of negative thinking that lead to anxiety and depression.

It takes 21 days to form a new a habit, but the benefits can last a lifetime, so lets get started!

7. Keep calm and ... exercise

Exercise is a sure-fire way of making you feel good, both physically and mentally. You can take a gentle walk, stretch in the garden, dance to some music, take part in a structured fitness workout – even in these strange times the possibilities are endless! There is a wealth of opportunity to join in online too, from yoga to boot camp, zumba to fitness workouts.... Just make sure you choose what's right for you, and make sure you don't overdo things!

8. Treat yourself

A little treat now and then is a great way to keep your spirits up. It doesn't have to be anything big or expensive - have a nice bubble bath, a cream cake, watch a favourite movie, sit in the garden, take time out and read a magazine.... Remember, if you are more relaxed and happy you will be a nicer person to be with, so no need to feel guilty either....

Enjoy - you deserve it!

9. Fake it til you make it

Are you smiling because you're happy or happy because you're smiling?

Your smile is a powerful tool. Scientists have known for a long time that emotions are accompanied by numerous changes in the body, from elevation in the heart rate to flexion of the zygomatic major muscle (i.e. smiling). However, we’ve come to understand more recently that it’s a two way street. Your brain actually pays attention to what your body is doing, and it affects your emotions. This was first called the “facial feedback hypothesis”...

Facial feedback works because the brain senses the flexion of certain facial muscles (like the zygomatic major, which is required to smile) and interprets it as “Oh I must be happy about something.” Similarly, if that muscle isn’t flexed then your brain thinks, “Oh, I must not be happy”....

In addition to the direct neural feedback, in the real world you also get the added advantage of social feedback. Smiles are infectious (perhaps another post on mirror neurons in the future). So even if you don’t feel much happier, the people around you are more likely to smile, and that can improve your mood as well....

So next time you want to improve your mood a little, all you have to do is flex your zygomatic major muscles to raise the corners of your mouth.

10. Be kind to yourself

Remember, no one is perfect! It's perfectly normal to feel grouchy or lose your temper once in a while, especially at times of high stress and uncertainty. Feeling guilty will only add to your feelings of stress, so forgive yourself, apologise and move on....

And remember, keep calm and:

breathe ... meditate .. sing.. get creative .. exercise … practice gratitude ... laugh ... treat yourself .. 'fake it til you make it' and … be kind to yourself!