Coping with stress is something that persistently affects 44% of us, according to a study by Bupa. And in the lead up to Christmas, stress levels soar.
‘The combination of creating the perfect Christmas for our families, meeting other people’s expectations and the pressure to spend money is overwhelming,’ says life and empowerment coach Kate Taylor. This can leave our tired bodies and weary minds struggling to cope.
‘Stress affects all layers of our health and wellbeing,’ says Suzy Reading, Neom psychologist and author of The Self-Care Revolution. ‘It can disturb our sleep, change our appetite and make us feel angry or tearful.’ So knock it on its head and calm your body and mind with these top tips on how to deal with stress…
1. Take little steps
‘Break down your tasks list,’ advises Kate. ‘Preparing for Christmas as a whole can seem daunting. But a study by Grace Say Aloe found that 60% of people believe lots of small changes can make a big difference. Set aside bite-sized chunks of Christmas prep every day, then celebrate how well you’re doing at the end of the week by treating yourself – it could be a luxuriating bath or one-on-one time with friends.’
2. The calming collection
Try Neom’s Scent To De-stress range, which is specially designed to help you cope with stress. It’s available in body scrubs, oils, moisturisers, room mists and candles, prices from £5.
3. De-stress your diet
Your diet can have a big impact on your state of mind. Nutritional therapist Nicola Shubrook (urbanwellness.co.uk) reveals the top six serenity-inducing foods…
Eggs: Contain important amino acids that can help relieve stress, promote calm and boost your mood. Oats: This complex carb releases glucose slowly, providing a steady source of fuel to your brain, as well as happy hormone serotonin. Mackerel: A good source of omega-3 fatty acids that support good brain health, particularly in stressful times. Kefir Active: Cultures in this fermented milk drink help support your digestive system, reduce stress hormones and boost neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), which helps calm the mind. Dark chocolate: Boosts endorphins – feel-good brain chemicals – that can help increase memory. Avocado: An excellent source of vitamin B6 and folic acid – key for a healthy nervous system and reducing stress.
4. Savour your sleep
A good night’s slumber is key to curbing those stress levels and helping you manage pressurised situations. ‘When our energy levels are topped up, we manage life better and have greater access to creativity and resourcefulness in response to challenges,’ explains Suzy. It can also improve your memory (essential for ticking off that to-do list), sharpen your attention (for those end-of-year deadlines) and help with decision-making – which might make that choice about which in-laws you visit this year a little easier.
5. Manage your magnesium levels
Eating a diet rich in magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones, helps remove heavy metals – often linked to anxiety – and can also boost your mood. So tuck into leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, dried fruit and dark chocolate, or top levels up with Holland & Barrett Magnesium Tablets (£9.99 for 100 tablets).
6. Schedule stress
Setting time aside to worry may seem counterintuitive – after all, the aim is to chill you out. But Jo Usmar, author of This Book Will Make You Fearless, says allotting five minutes a day to sort through your stresses can help when it comes to how to deal with stress. ‘It stops the snowball effect,’ she explains. Jo recommends keeping a worry diary – noting down things that are troubling you and reminding yourself you’ll deal with them later. ‘Knowing you’re not ignoring them will make you feel better, plus by the time you get to deal with them, they may have been resolved,’ she says. Use Jo’s top tips to sort through them…
Cross off ones that are no longer relevant. Ask yourself if this worry is realistic. If the answer’s no, cross it off. If the answer is yes, ask yourself if you can do anything about it? If the answer is no, take it off your list. If the answer is yes, make an action plan. ‘As soon as you take action, your worry will lessen.’
7. Change your commute
89% of 2,500 bicycle commuters said jumping on their bikes helped them wind down from work. If you’re not a fan of two wheels, walk. Walkers are one third less stressed and half as tired than those who take the train.
8. And breathe…
‘Breathing is an incredible way to reset your body and brain and prevent us worrying about all the things we need to get done,’ explains Kate. Try this stress-busting breathing technique, which you can do anytime, anywhere. Square breath: inhale for a count of four. Hold the inhale for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold the exhale for a count of four. Repeat.
Words: Natalia Lubomirski