Feeling frazzled? When your daily routine is super-stressful it’s no wonder your body might feel like it’s in a constant state of heightened activity. Carry on like this for an extended period of time and it could lead to a number of consequences from anxiety and depression through to various aches and pains, and even serious illness. No surprise then that the charity MIND reports that a staggering 12 million people each year visit their GP with mental health issues, most of which are caused by stress. Here are a few early warning signs that stress may be getting the better of you:
Physical: headaches, back and neck pain, digestive disorders, irritable bowel, frequent colds, heart palpitations
Behavioural: Overeating, drinking too much, gambling excessively, frequently buying things you don’t need
Emotional: Irritability, outbursts of anger, periods of withdrawal
By far, one of the worst consequences of stress is the body releasing extra cortisol, a hormone that causes us to store fat, particularly around the waistline. But there are plenty of ways you can ease stress and in turn keep the fat at bay…
STRETCH YOUR LIMITS
Flexibility training is a very effective way of relieving stress, allowing you focused time to really work on your body and target any trouble spots. Time to sign up for a yoga or Pilates class and get stretching!
Inhale deeply and apply pressure with your hands on your ribs, so the respiratory muscles are forced to work a little harder. Do this for five minutes to restore calm.
Use the power of your mind to banish unwanted stresses. With each in/out breath cycle, count how many strides you walk, or silently say the word ‘peace’ each time you breath in, or focus on a soothing image (such as a candle flame).
LAUGH IT OFF
Laughter unleashes a rush of feel-good endorphins – the perfect stress-buster – so stick on a comedy film or check out You Tube for sketches, stand-up and funny mishaps to raise a few chuckles.
Experts suggest that it is specifically the rhythm of music that produces a calming effect. It is thought that when in the womb, we were influenced by the heartbeats of our mothers. So, by listening to soothing music, we associate it with the safe, relaxing, protective environment provided by our mums. A spot of Debussy, anyone?
Unleash your inner child and play a game! There are thousands of table top and computer games designed to help us to relax and focus, one of the most innovative and entertaining being Mindball, which uses players’ brainwaves to control the movement of a ball across a table by becoming more relaxed and focused.
BE ON THE BALL
Juggling work pressures, family commitments and money is something we’re all familiar with. But did you know that learning to do it with balls can actually help you to better cope with common stressors? A study on juggling therapy for females with anxiety disorders, published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine, suggested that juggling therapy may be effective in the treatment of anxiety. So, pick up some balls and get throwing!
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a really useful way to help clear your mind. This can be particularly useful before going to sleep or when you first wake up, so keep a notepad and pen on your bedside table and scribble down what comes into your head.
How many times have you thought to yourself “I really must treat myself this month” but never actually got round to it? With such a vast array of therapies on the market offering therapeutic benefits (treating the physical symptom can often help ease the emotional cause) there really is no excuse not to head down to your nearest spa and book in 60 minutes of ‘me time’, be it for a massage or a simple facial. Or you could try the Clarins Melting Honey Hot Stone Massage (£63,ragdalehall.co.uk ) to gently release tension, soothe aching muscles }