Stress – 15 Steps to a Stress Free Life

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Stress – 15 Steps to a Stress Free Life

Stress…We don’t want to worry you… but research has revealed Brits spend almost five years of their lives doing just that – worrying.

An amazing 86% of us describe ourselves as worriers, fretting about everything from relationships, money, work and health to missing the bus or our alarm, according to herbal firm Rescue Remedy.

On average we spend 1hr 50mins a day getting wound up – or four years and 11 months in total.

But we have come up with great ways to keep the fears at bay – so that’s one less thing to worry about.


Sniff a grapefruit

Breathing in citrus aromas can help reduce stress. In a study at James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, researchers diffused essential oils in the central nurses’ station.

Oncology nurses, who can suffer from stress, compassion fatigue and burnout, reported significant improvements – particularly when spritzed with grapefruit, which boosts energy and happiness.

“Fruit can do amazing things,” says complementary and integrative medicine researcher Barbara Thomley.


Write off your fears

Getting fears down on paper can help to reduce their effect, according to a University of Chicago study.

Students who were prone to test anxiety were asked to write about their fears before an exam – and those who did so improved their test scores considerably.

Associate professor in psychology Sian Beilock said: “It’s as if you empty the fears out of your mind.”


Change your bedtime

If you’re a night bird you could be feeding your inner worrier.

Researchers at Binghamton University in New York found people who go to bed very late are more overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

They tend to worry about the future and dwell on the past, and have a higher risk of depression, post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Chomp on chocs

Too many sweets can cause a sugar high then a crash. But it can calm worriers in moderation.

One study found participants who ate one and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks had reduced stress hormones.


Bore your fears to death

You can kill off your worst worries with what Robert Leahy, of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York, calls The Boredom Technique.

“Repeat a feared thought over and over and it will go away,” he says.

“Let’s say you are worried you might lose your job. Say, ‘It’s possible I can get fired’ hundreds of times over 20 minutes, slowly, focusing on the words and you’ll get incredibly bored with your worry.”


Go nuts

Eat more foods that contain vitamin B and omega-3 oils, such as walnuts, plus healthy whole-grain carbohydrates.

Studies have shown these reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and lower blood pressure.


Be a heavy breather

Deep breathing, or yoga breathing, is known to lower stress and anxiety. Holistic health expert Dr Andrew Weil recommends the “4-7-8 breath” technique if you are feeling upset.

Exhale through your mouth, and then inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for seven seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for eight.

He insists it is not possible to breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time.


Limit social media

Studies have found that Facebook and Twitter feed anxiety because of the Fear of Missing Out. Ogling details of other people’s wonderful lives can magnify our insecurities.

But research from Anxiety UK showed that nearly half of people feel worried being away from email or Facebook.

“Some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use rather than being controlled by it,” said Anxiety UK CEO Nicky Lidbetter.

Limit your interaction on social media to specific times per day.


Find a worry buddy

They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and psychologist Edward M Hallowell reckons worrying in the company of someone else stops us becoming paralysed by fear.

“In isolation we lose perspective,” he says. “We tend to catastrophise.”

He recommends finding someone you trust to vent worries to, in order to work on a plan to increase your control over the situation.


Hug a tree

Walking in the woods can lower our levels of stress hormones. The Japanese call this shinrin-yoku or “forest bath”.

Eva Selhub and Alan Logan, authors of Your Brain on Nature, say: “Spending time within a forest can reduce stress, depressive symptoms and hostility, while improving sleep, and increasing vigour and feelings of liveliness.”


Learn to juggle

The Medical Research Council found that keeping our hands busy distracts our minds and can help prevent flashbacks caused by traumas by interfering with the storing of visual images.

You could also take up knitting, or try the trick of snapping an elastic band on your wrist to stop your worries overwhelming you.


Open a worry window

This Cognitive Behavioural Therapy technique teaches you to confine worrying to 15 minutes each day.

When a worry pops up in your head cast it aside until that time. This will be difficult at first, but control will develop over time.

During your worry slot open the floodgates and write down everything that is making you fret. At the end of the week, identify any repeat worries. This way you are taking charge of your worries.


Blow up a balloon

It forces you to breathe the way you are supposed to, stopping anxiety.

Therapist Beth Burgess says: “You’re also likely to associate blowing up balloons with carefree childhood days or fun times.”


Live a little

Dr Susan M Love, a professor of medicine at the University of California, says trying to follow all the rules for healthy living can be a source of stress in itself.

In her book, ‘Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won’t Break Your Health’, she says we should strive “to live as long as you can with the best quality of life you can. The problem was all of these women I kept meeting who were scared to death if they didn’t eat a cup of blueberries a day they would drop dead.”



Taking time to find some Zen really can help anxiety – brain scans prove it.

A recent study showed meditation training not only lowers anxiety levels, it also had effects on the brain region that controls emotions, thinking and worrying.


Original Post – August 19, 2015 – RACHAEL BLETCHLY (Mirror)

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