Healthy Eating

How to be stress free in seconds

  • Breathe
    It’s easy for stress to perpetuate even more stress: as our breathing becomes tense our body does too, and the cycle repeats. “Deep breaths are essential to get the mind thinking clearly and for the body to slow down,” says lifecoach and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru (rasaru.com). “Put your hands behind your head, stand tall and take three slow, very deep breaths from your stomach. You’ll start to feel the air in your lungs and feel yourself calming down.”

  • Face your fears
    Stress often stems from fear, so challenge those fears and simply ask yourself: “What am I afraid of?” “Fear triggers your ‘fight or flight’ stress response,” says counsellor and coach Cat Williams, author of Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You (staycalmandcontent.com). “But it’s probably F.E.A.R i.e. ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’ too. Do you really need to feel afraid, and therefore stressed? Remember there is actually ‘nothing to fear but fear itself’.”

  • Sing a song
    “Sing your favourite song or nursery rhyme (in your head if you’re in public!)” says Steve Neesam, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist (together-therapy.co.uk). “It is far easier to distract your mind than to tell it not to think about something. A nursery rhyme can also bring up the emotions anchored in childhood and put you into a more carefree state.”

  • Laugh out loud
    The age-old adage ‘laughter is the best medicine’ might just be true; with numerous studies showing it can have a positive effect on stress-busting hormones. Other studies have shown it may help reduce heart disease and enhance learning and memory. Even more reasons to be happy!

  • Try some word play
    Mantras have been used for millennia to train the brain and create calm, but even one word will do. “Think of a word that makes you feel calm (I actually like the word ‘calm’ itself) and when you get stressed just say or think of the word,” says Ogunlaru. “This brief second or two may just give you that moment to catch your breath, bite your lip, let it go, or walk away.”

  • Focus on your stress
    Giving your stress attention might seem counterintuitive, but pushing it away can cause much more anxiety. “Instead, focus on the negative feeling: where do you feel it in your body? Imagine that stress as an object. Is it hard or soft? What colour is it?” says Stiles. “Now imagine that object gradually fading away or gently dissolving. The feeling might shift around your body but just follow it around until it has gone. Then check how you feel. Are there any stressful feelings left? Repeat until they are gone.”

  • Eat a mindful meal
    Gobbling lunch to get back to work, the kids, or that pressing bit of housework? Instead of rushing through your break, use it as a top-up. “Look at your fork full before it goes in your mouth: notice the shape, the texture, the smell,” says psychotherapist Dr Christian Buckland. “Pay attention to the flavour of the food: the sharpness, the crunch, the coolness. Being really present can take us momentarily away from a stressful situation and look at it in a more calm and controlled manner.”

  • Think of a loved one
    “Bring to mind somebody you love – maybe your child, your partner, or a parent – and vividly imagine them smiling at you,” says therapist and coach Ann Finnemore, author of Life in the Driving Seat: taking your road trip to happiness (gettingyouthere.co.uk). “Our immediate reaction is to smile back and when we do, we release both physical and emotional stress.”

  • Nuture gratitude 15
    Numerous studies have shown regularly acknowledging the good things in life can reduce toxic emotions and improve wellbeing. “Every day think about one good thing that has happened to you,” says hypnotherapist Sharon Stiles, author of Stop Trying to be Positive (sharonstiles.co.uk). “If you’ve had a really bad day, it could just be the fact that you got caught in the rain on your way home rather than on your way out! Write down your ‘good things’ in a book so you can remember them, and avoid being overwhelmed by only thinking of the stressful ones.”

  • Choose good mood food
    It’s easy to reach for the fries when you’re frazzled, or a chocolate bar to boost your mood, but in the long-term these foods can actually dampen down feel-good hormones. “Reduce stress with a handful of nuts and seeds, a small cube of cheese or a slice of boiled egg,” says Emma Scott, nutritionist and lifestyle coach (nutrilife.uk.com). “These foods are rich in the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan, needed to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which help reduce stress and induce a sense of calm.”

  • Find your ‘liquid luck’
    “In the film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry gives Ron a potion of ‘liquid luck’, and Ron instantly switches from a nervous wreck, to a confident team player. Later we discover Harry actually added nothing to his drink – and we can apply this same trick to our imaginations,” says Williams. “Our brains don’t know the difference between being relaxed and imagining we are relaxed, so, when you are facing something stressful, take five seconds to imagine you are someone who could handle this challenge. Really concentrate on being that person. Take a deep breath in, release it, and step into a new version of yourself!”

  • Give yourself a slap on the wrist
    “Keep an elastic band round your wrist and ping it a couple of times if you start to feel stressed or anxious,” says Dr Buckland. “This may seem simplistic but it can help break a chain reaction of automatic and negative thoughts that accompany the physical or psychological symptoms of stress. By pinging the elastic band we can stop one negative thought from automatically going onto the next one, and it buys time to stop and reassess the situation.”

  • Press pause
    A knee-jerk reaction in a stressful situation can often make the stress and the situation worse, so it pays to take a moment. “Pause and let the moment that has triggered you off to pass. Physically take a step back and change perspective,” says Ogunlaru. “Sometimes we are too close to events and become blinkered, so just stepping into a differing room or changing the chair you sit on can help you see things differently.”

  • Have a mini massage
    “There is an acupressure point on your wrist that helps to reduce overwhelming feelings,” says Stiles. “Use the fingers of one hand to rub gently in a circle on the wrist of the other hand, about where a watch would be, and look up. Simply focusing on the soothing sensation stops your mind flitting between different thoughts and looking up helps you feel more positive.”

  • Smell yourself well
    According to a study by Newcastle’s Northumbria University, breathing in the aroma of lavender has a sedative effect, slowing reactions and reducing agitation. Add one drop of essential oil to a hankie and inhale the calm!

Health & Wellbeing