Many of us live our days (maybe even our lives) in a state of stress. Stress is a term used to represent our physical and emotional response to our environment or demands put on us (known as stressors). Our stress response can be positive and is, in fact, vital to our survival (e.g. a fever when we have a virus is our body’s stress response to help fight the virus).
However, most of our stress responses are designed to be short term (think “fight or flight”) and then our body should return to it’s “pre-stressed” state (in naturopathy, we often refer to this as “rest and digest”).
Unfortunately, problems can arise when the constant stressors in our life mean we never get a chance to “switch off” our physical and emotional responses to stress.
These problems are many and can include depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, poor digestion, insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, poor immunity, infertility, fatigue, feeling “wired but tired” and much more. As a naturopath, I firmly believe that excess stress (or at least the way we respond to stress) worsens the health of almost every person I treat.
So what can you do to unwind and encourage your body to switch off its stress response? Here are some simple relaxation suggestions:
- Switch out of “work mode”. Change out of work clothes and turn off the electronic gadgets.
- A warm bath (even if only for 10 minutes) is wonderfully relaxing. Add some epsom salts to sooth aching muscles or your favourite bath oil.
- Have a laugh. Keep a supply of your favourite funny movies or sitcoms for when your mood needs a lift.
- Play your favourite music and sing and dance as if no-one is watching.
- Indulge in a hobby you love e.g. gardening, cooking, knitting, crosswords etc.
- Spend some quiet time with a good book…immerse yourself.
- Have a massage or pedicure.
- Catch up with friends so you don’t lose the “connection”.
- Take up meditation or practise deep breathing.
- Enjoy a good cup of tea. The theanine in tea is very calming. Or, if you prefer, a herbal tea such as passionflower, chamomile or skullcap.
- Study something just for fun. This may sound counter-intuitive but doing a course just for pleasure can be great for your health. Maybe cooking, a language, photography or anything else that interests you.
- Get active. Gentle exercise is fantastic for unwinding so go for a walk, do a yoga class, walk the dog or find some other activity you enjoy and do it just for fun.
- Get out in the sunshine. There is nothing like feeling the sun on your face to help you relax. If you are not convinced, just have a look at how cats and dogs will sprawl in the sunshine.
- Get an early night. Missing out on much-needed sleep will not help you to feel less stressed.
- Say “no” to something. It can be very empowering and help you to feel like you are in control of your life.
- Write a gratitude journal. Every day, write say, 5 things, that you are grateful for.
- Hug a loved-one…a partner, a pet, a friend.
- Volunteer to do something for someone else. Focussing on someone else’s needs can help to take your mind off your own troubles.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are who you are and no-one else.
- Forgive yourself for not being perfect. None of us are, despite what we might like to believe.
So, when you are feeling a bit “stressed” dip into this list for some inspiration on how to relax. You might even like to print it out and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.
And if you are still feeling stressed and in need of some help to “de-stress” your life or improve your ability to cope, call me for a naturopathic appointment. Let me help you get to the bottom of your symptoms and restore your resilience.