7 of the best tried-and-tested ways to reduce chronic stress

This is the sequel to my last blog, which looked at what stress actually is and the problem with our modern-day stress. It was aimed at giving a little helpful education and enlightenment. So, if you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to. This article will take on a whole new meaning once you have. 

how to reduce chronic stressI’ve certainly had my fair share of stress. Who hasn’t? I’ve also consulted my fair share of clients who have been chronically stressed and unhappy about. So this list of strategies on how to reduce chronic stress is based on my own experience and on the experience of people I’ve had the pleasure of helping. I really hope it helps you too.  

  • EXERCISE. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate chronic stress and reduce tension. It’s especially good for stress accompanied by feelings of depression and a lack of energy and motivation. Exercise not only helps to boost feel-good neurotransmitters that counteract the stress response, but it also helps to take our mind off the things that are worrying us, release pent-up physical tension and get a new perspective on things. 
  • SPEND TIME WITH AUTHENTIC FRIENDS. Sometimes when we are stressed and down we can feel like shutting ourselves off and being alone. But research has shown that one of the best ways to boost mood and promote feelings of well-being is by spending time with people who’s company we enjoy. Social support and close relationships are a key aspect to mental health and wellbeing, providing a sense of connection, acceptance and love that we all need. Spending time with friends can also help on a practical level by taking our focus away from ourselves and our own stresses. It’s worth noting that simply spending time with others isn’t necessarily so healing. Sure it can help to take our mind off things, but it lacks that nourishing sense of connection that authentic friendships bring. 
  • DEVELOP A RELAXATION PRACTICE. Breathing, visualisation and meditation exercises are one of the best ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and alleviate chronic stress. They help us to find that inner space of calm that we can return to again and again when things get tough. You might not feel it right now, but trust me, there is a serene and peaceful place that you carry around with you everywhere you go. Just because you can’t see the sun on a cloudy day, doesn’t mean its not there. By practicing relaxation techniques you will help to uncover that place of stillness and inner peace, and hold on to it.  
  • EXPRESS YOURSELF. Pent-up, unexpressed emotions block our energy, cause pain and put us in a low-level state of chronic stress. Emotions need to be expressed in order for us to clear a new path and evolve in our life. When we repress our emotions we become heavy, stagnated and out of touch with our feelings and with life itself. There are many ways to express your feelings, such as doing daily pages, writing poetry, talking to a close friend or family member, attending therapy sessions or doing EFT. When we identify and name our emotions they loose their grip on us, we gain access to the wisdom of our body and we feel empowered rather than at their mercy. 
  • CHALLENGE {AND CHANGE} YOUR PERCEPTION. Much of our stress is imagined and internally generated. Our perceptions warp our experience of reality and lead us to read situations and circumstances in a way that serves to generate stress by judging others, judging ourself and playing to our insecurities and fears. Everything in life is all a matter of opinion – what we think about it. This influences how we feel about the circumstances in our life and in turn, what we do. By becoming more aware of our thought processes in response to people and events in our life, and by then challenging these, we can learn to have a more merciful and open attitude rather than simply living our life to serve our own (mostly faulty) assumptions. To do this is pretty simple. For instance, the next time you are out in town and another person bumps into you and pushes past like you’re not even there, watch your thoughts and challenge. Instead of thinking ‘what a b*itch/b*stard! Who the hell do they think they are! People are so selfish and impatient!!’, why not take a more merciful and open minded approach; ‘Maybe they are late to a job interview? Maybe they are on their way to see a family member in hospital? Maybe they left their wallet in a shop down the road? Maybe they are just really unhappy and stressed out at the moment?’. Because the thing is, we just never know. And how much more beautiful and stress-relieving it is to have a merciful attitude in life. It’s where kindness and compassion come in. 
  • PRACTICE KINDNESS AND COMPASSION. We are wired for compassion and kindness. It’s a natural instinct in us all but one that is deadened when we are not present in life or connected to ourselves. Compassion takes us beyond a narrow self-interest that breeds suffering to a sense of connection to the whole. Compassion is about being attentive to the suffering of others and responding to this from our hearts with a desire to alleviate another’s pain through caring and kindness. The fact that compassion comes with so many benefits to our stress levels and emotional health is proof of the old adage that ‘to give is more pleasurable than to receive’ and that connecting to others in a meaningful way buffers against stress and makes us feel good. The practice of compassion doesn’t have to be expressed in huge gestures (like moving to a war-torn country to volunteer). It is an attitude and a way of life that can be shown in our small daily habits; simple things like smiling warmly at someone, helping a stranger, picking flowers for a friend who’s going through a rough time, saying a prayer for someone you love, giving to charity. It just needs to be authentic and from the heart. 
  • EAT WELL. A poor diet is literally a stressor to the body and can be a big culprit in the generation and maintenance of chronic stress, in addition to the fact that chronic stress massively depletes the body of many essential vitamins and minerals. The most important dietary factors for helping to alleviate chronic stress are cutting down on sugars and processed carbohydrates, increasing vegetable intake, especially cruciferous vegetables like kale, pak choi, cauliflower and cabbage, increasing your intake of healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts & seeds, omega-3 fats) upping your protein intake (especially through eating more oily fish, like salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel) and eating more antioxidants (such as fresh herbs and species, dark berries, pomegranates). The mineral magnesium plays an essential role in mediating stress especially when accompanied by low mood and anxiety, so it’s often a good idea to take extra (between 500-1000mg bioavailable Mg per day. Donat Mg is my go-to). 

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dc48xnkniI’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of stress relief. What ways have you found to chill you out when things get too much?  

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Do you know someone who is super stressed out? Share the love by sharing this with them – they’ll thank you for it. 

 

With love and gratitude, 

claire-signiture-vector1

 

 

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