Stress: Your ultimate guide
Stress can manifest as a range of symptoms as a result of disturbances to our physiological or psychological equilibrium. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress is accountable for up to 60% of all human illness and disease.
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It’s decidedly easy to become overwhelmed by stress, considering the frenetic lives we lead in the 21st-century. But you deserve a break even in the midst of a punishing deadline at work, or while juggling your many family responsibilities.
Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Carey Bremridge supplies you with crucial advice on how to reduce stress quickly and easily, without having to resort to the expense of a spa or a weekend retreat.
1. Get your blood flowing – and those feel-good hormones pumping
Getting some exercise is a simple, yet effective way of getting rid of stress and anxiety – and you don’t have to hit the gym or go for a run to reap its benefits.
“Even just doing a few yoga stretches or star jumps in the office, or walking around the floor of the office for ten minutes will help get your blood flowing, the oxygen circulating and your feel-good hormones working,” advises Bremridge.
2. Meditate and breathe
Regular meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety. “Meditating for ten minutes accompanied by deep breathing first thing in the morning and before you go to bed helps a lot,” says Bremridge.
And if you’re having a really stressful day at work, put your head on your desk, close your eyes and breathe deeply for a couple of minutes. Bremridge also suggests using guided meditation apps that are freely available.
3. Don’t self-medicate
Smoking, drinking alcohol and even using sedative medication when you’re stressed is a bad idea, cautions Bremridge.
“We think that these are helping, but they actually put us on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. A caffeine high, for example, actually increases anxiety. Also, smoking limits the amount of oxygen flowing through your body,” she explains.
4. Burst into song – and laughter
Believe it or not, you can actually sing and laugh away stress. Studies have shown that music and laughter can actively reduce stress and anxiety.
And don’t worry if even the shower curtain cringes when you channel your inner Mariah – in fact, that’s a good thing! “The cornier and cheesier and more off-tune the better – singing will make you laugh at yourself and put you in a better mood,” says Bremridge.
5. Sleep it off
The power of a good night’s sleep should never be underestimated, especially when you’re stressed. “If you’ve got a tight deadline, resist the urge to pull an all-nighter,” cautions Bremridge. “After you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you will work faster, more efficiently and at a more effective pace, than trying to work on no sleep.” Always try to get as close to eight hours of sleep per night as possible.
According to Bremridge, when it comes to managing the stress in your life effectively, the winning formula is decidedly simple: “Eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of play keep the therapist away.”