You can understand why stress reduction is such a hot topic. Stress is difficult to deal with. It can sap your energy and make you doubt yourself. Left unchecked for an extended period, it can cause you to feel anxious, fatigued and drained. And even invite physical and mental ill-health.
Here are 4 stress reduction tips you can use that are low on the fuss and high on the impact
Look for simple activities you enjoy
Stress is a problem the world over. While we may be under-resourced here in Australia, consider the situation for countries such as India. Mental health is lacking in funding and support generally in India and other developing nations. And rarely given the same sort of respect as physical medical issues. Access for the poor is incredibly limited.
Pioneers like Dr Vikram Patel are attempting to change this and give all people access to mental health support and stress reduction techniques. His methods are about focussing in on the small, obtainable joys in life.
One of the ways Patel has successfully reached out to people with depression is by sending community health workers. His workers are not degree qualified but are hand-picked for their empathy. His program trains the community workers in basic yet practical stress reduction techniques.
Distance is also a problem. So instead of asking the patient to come to the carer, his community workers travel on motorcycles to their home. This also aids in designing proper support programs. The community workers identify things that may be causing stress in the home. And they incorporate what is within the home and within easy distance to the treatment plan.
Things like watching TV for 15 minutes end up as part of the program. Or sewing or baking for fun. Walking in nature is also popular. The key is to have an activity that gives the participant joy. As well as focussing on cornerstone activities such as exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well and grabbing ‘me time’.
We too can apply the same sort of approach.
Much of the stress we feel is through feeling like we have no option, no choice and no autonomy. We put off seeking ‘me time’ and small joys like craft, stopping for coffee or giving ourselves time to unwind. We know the importance of exercise, eating well and getting enough rest. Yet these are often the first things on the chopping block when we get busy.
Going back to basics and to look after our physical wellbeing are all simple ways to reduce stress. So too is indulging some ‘me time’.
Chewing and crunching
You wouldn’t think it but how you make use of your jaw can influence your stress levels.
Chewing gum helps relieve stress if done for 14 days. There is increased blood flow found in the cerebral cortex when we chew. It also lowers blood pressure and can help you feel less depressed overall.
Gum may not be your weapon of choice. Crunching through a carrot can relax a stressed and tight jaw. It also provides nourishment that helps add fibre to the gut. Imbalances in the gut through too much sugar, fat and a lack of fibre can hurt our mood.
When in need of a quick fix, it seems a little gum or carrot chewing can’t hurt when trying to lower the stress quotient.
Spending time with nature
We all know a bit of fresh air and nature is great for us. But did you know it works wonders in stress reduction as well?
An experiment in the Netherlands showed that gardening for 30 minutes or more helped improve the mood and lower cortisol levels. Soil also contains a bacterium that triggers serotonin and helps elevate mood while reducing anxiety.
Walking through nature helps restore our attention to full capacity faster. But this isn’t only due to the exercise. If we choose to walk for the same amount of time in an urban environment, the benefits are not as good.
But you don’t have to dig up the office plants or hit the park for lunch to activate the nature stress reduction factor. At least in a small way.
Even admiring nature in a quiet spot can have a positive effect on our mood. In an experiment by Dr. Marc Berman at the University of Michigan it appears even looking at nature helps. Participants sat in a quiet room to look at nature photographs and even their mood improved.
“Researchers had participants take a break for 10 minutes in a quiet room to look at pictures of a nature scene or city street. Again, they found that cognitive performance improved after the nature break, even though it was only on paper.
Although the boost wasn’t as great as when participants actually took the walk among the trees, it was more effective than the city walk,” explained Dr. Berman.
With that in mind, maybe a desk photo of your favourite plant from home wouldn’t go astray?
Don’t over think it
One of the most common issues faced by self starters and entrepreneurs is over thinking what we do.
We get stuck into Imposter Syndrome that steals our ability to move past our fears into action.
We get hit with analysis paralysis when there are too many choices available. As the choices open up to us, so too can the melancholy for choices we don’t choose grows. All of this depletes our reserves for decision-making making it harder and harder to move forward.
When we seek to find every alternative to maximise potential to the point where we invite a negative mood and view of ourselves, we invite waves of social comparison and personal upset. And we reduce our potential for happiness by never being satisfied.
One of the greatest highs we can gift to ourselves is through productivity. So it stands to reason that thinking too much and acting little will continue to increase our stress levels.
By setting ourselves goals and picking things to do instead of continually adding to the TO DO list, we’re far better off. Not only mentally, but also because we’re climbing our head enough to get stuff done!
Stress is natural. Stressing about stress is not
Stress is there to help motivate us and as an early warning system. But continued stress is not a helpful situation to be in at all. Employing small changes to your situation may seem like a reductive approach to a wider issue, but small things can join to create a bigger whole.
By using small, easy to achieve techniques, you can gain some form of stress relief. Oh, and for bonus points, you can’t go past the sanity of madness on occasion.