These are some techniques you can use, singly or in combination, to help alleviate stress and relax the mind and the body.
The stress you feel over a long time can contribute to insomnia, high blood pressure, ulcers and weakened immune systems, as well as foggy thinking and poor judgement. Even so, small amounts of stress can mount up during your day.
When stress gets away from you and suddenly you find yourself at work and totally panicked, there are things you can do. There are several mini de-stress techniques that you can use to deal with this onslaught of tension before you say something you shouldn't or you run for the nearest exit screaming.
Smile - Smiling is the first line of defence against stress. It's quick, easy, and free! When you smile your body releases feel-good hormones, while the stress hormone, cortisol, is reduced. Smiling helps you feel calm and in control. It lowers your blood pressure and makes you feel good about yourself.
Exercise - As well as its undoubted benefits for your general health, exercise is highly effective in reducing stress. It improves blood-flow to the brain, helping you think more clearly. Exercise is also another great way to release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and feel-good hormones. There is also evidence that fit people are better able to handle the long-term effects of stress.
Get enough rest and sleep - Taking a rest isn't only about not doing anything. A rest from work can mean putting the emphasis on what you do in your leisure time – hobbies, holidays, sport – to counterbalance work or everyday stress. And we all need sleep for energy, good concentration and general health. Chronic sleep-deprivation can affect your performance at work, which can be a key factor in raising stress levels.
Positive thinking - Changing your thoughts is not as difficult as you think. Try to adopt an outlook on life that stops you seeing external events as determining your happiness. Instead, see your thoughts as the determiner of your happiness. It takes practice, but if you can do this you'll reduce the negative tension that leads to much of the stress in your life.
Reach out to others - When you need to reduce the pressure in your life, you can't always do it on your own. Everyone should have a support network of friends, family, co-workers and other people they can call on to help take the strain - whether it's practical help or a sympathetic ear when you feel down.
Achieve a good work-life balance - Don't let work dominate your life. No matter how ambitious you are, it's important to make time for relaxation and fun. That might mean reducing the number of hours you work, or changing to a job that's closer to home so your commuting time is reduced. Use time management techniques to ensure you're more productive during your normal working hours, rather than continually staying late at the office.
Relaxation - A good relaxation technique is an anti-stress weapon that you always carry with you, to help you deal with any stressful situation as it arises. Make relaxation a regular part of your daily routine. There are so many relaxation techniques, from deep-breathing and visualization to meditation and self-hypnosis. Find one that works for you – check out the many books, CDs and DVDs that can help. Or listen to music which helps you relax - concentrating on the music can make you feel good and relax tension in your body.
Eat a healthy diet - A balanced diet that delivers all the nutrients your body needs to function at its optimum level is essential for dealing with stressful situations. And cutting back on stimulants like caffeine and sugar and depressants like alcohol and nicotine will keep your blood sugar levels constant and help you to avoid mood swings.
Hugging - Make sure you get and give your fair share of hugs. Not only does hugging feel good, it has been proven to help reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Stress Relief Activities - Whether its biking, fishing, reading, arts and crafts or any activity you enjoy, focusing your attention on something you like to do will help you relax. Make an appointed time for these hobbies or activities so that they don't get pushed aside by "more important", more stressful things. Make sure you set aside a time for doing the things that make you feel good.
Take a Deep Breath - and let it out slowly. Feel the tension leave your body with every breath out. Do this four or five times in a row. When you feel stressed out, your breathing becomes shallower. The moment you take a deep breath, you begin to feel better. The part of the brain stem responsible for breathing is endowed with neuropeptides and neuropeptide receptors and it is thought that this is how deep breathing results in a calmer and happier mind set.
Pets, Getting Organised, Writing Down Your Thoughts, Losing Yourself in A Daydream and Herbal Teas are other things which may help.
Sometimes at work or school, you can begin to feel the strain of reading and working with computer screens. One way to help your eyes recover and give yourself a mini break is to do this simple exercise.
Rub your hands together to generate a little heat within your palms. Gently cup them and put them over your closed eyes. Leave your hands there for ten seconds and concentrate on the warmth of your hands. Breathe deeply in and out while you are concentrating on your hands. When you take your hands away, slowly open your eyes. You will often feel a lot calmer, and your eyes will feel rested.
When you get home from work, if you are still feeling tension in your eyes, make yourself a pot of tea, using two tea bags. When the tea bags are cool, lie back on the couch and place the tea bags over your closed eyes. Let them remain in place for ten minutes while you breathe deeply and concentrate on your breathing. The cooling bags feel good on your eyes, and the tannins in the tea will reduce swelling under your eyes.
Deep breathing is a great on-the-spot relaxer. Close your eyes and begin with a deep breath, pushing your abdomen out as you fill your lungs with air. Inhale gently through your nose. You can exhale either through your nose or through your mouth. Sit quietly and breathe for ten completed breaths. This is usually enough to get you back on track, but you can sit and breathe for as long as you need to.
Another quick relaxer is stretching. This can be simply moving your head to each side and up and down, slowly, feeling the stretch. You can then shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and then let them relax. Next, you can move both arms across your chest, crossing over each hand alternately. Then, move your shoulders back toward your spine. If you have been working on a computer for a long time, you should also put your palms together as if in prayer and press gently. This will relieve tension in your wrists.
Don't forget to stand and stretch. Bring your arms high above your head and reach alternately toward the sky. Then drop your arms and reach toward the floor. Finally, extend your arms above your head and arch your back slightly.
When you have completed this sequence, you will have done beginning yoga asanas or postures. These stretches gently move your spine into alignment and relieve the tension in your head, arms, and shoulders.
Creating a relaxing place in the mind is a form of meditation, though many people would call it simple daydreaming. The place can be one that you have been to, in nature or one that you would like to go to. For many people, that place is a beach on a tropical island or a cabin in the woods. You can make this place as real in your mind as possible. Note exactly what colour the sky is or what colour the sea is. Visualise the warmth of the sun or how the sand feels beneath your feet. You could even put in bird song or the sound of wind chimes. Make the place as real as possible. While you are in this exotic locale, you are actually taking a short holiday from the cares of your life. And, just like a holiday, you can open your eyes refreshed and recharged.
Mini Self Massage
This last de-stressor can make you feel wonderful though the technique is really quite simple. With the thumb of one hand, massage the palm of the other hand. Make small circles with your thumb, working every area of the palm, and eventually work your way up each finger. Switch and do the other hand. This is similar to the hand massages that massage therapists do for their clients. If you add positive thoughts or affirmations to your massage, it will deepen your relaxation and reinforce it every time you massage your hands.
Any of these mini stress-reducing exercises can help you relax when you need to calm down or maintain your peace within.
But do remember: Seek Professional Help if you need it
Book an appointment with your GP to discuss the best way forward for you.