Feeling stressed? Here are highly effective, yet simple ways to release those anxious feelings and find inner calm.
In order for us to learn how to de-stress, we must first know what stresses our bodies. When we feel something is not right or we are overwhelmed and cannot find a solution, our heart becomes heavy, our muscles tense up and we feel depressed. This feeling is caused by the increase of a type of hormone in our body called cortisol.
When you’re stressed, anxious or overworked, it will affect your career and your relationships. You might also get other health complications such as insomnia, hypertension, heart problems, diabetes, etc. Also, nobody likes to be around a person who’s stressed out, grumpy, miserable, anxious, tense or negative.
So what do you do? Luckily for us, scientists have conducted studies and came up with ways for us to de-stress.
1) Go for a walk
Increase your productivity, by taking a 10-minute walk, if you have a spacious garden. You can also go to a park nearby where you may also meet people and perhaps make a new friend which will add on to the de-stressing factor. A relaxing stroll not only strengthens you body but will put your mind in a harmonious state. Walking through greenery will also put you in a “zen” mood.
Research has found that exercise releases enzymes which detoxify kynurenine, a byproduct of stress and inflammation. Exercising also releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body.
2) Listen to music
A popular saying “Music has charms to soothe a savage beast”, coined by William Congreve, an English author, holds some truth in it. Music released biochemical stress reducers, such as feel-good neurochemicals (like dopamine), in your body.
3) Eat Omega-3 foods
Studies have found that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the levels of cytokines, compounds that promote inflammation, thereby promoting de-stressing feeling.
4) Visualise or write it out
Sit back and visualise a happy memory. One that will make you smile or simply visualise a calm, beautiful and peaceful scene. Alternatively, if you’re not good at visualising, you can write down your thoughts and what you’re feeling and reflect on it. Some scientific institutions term this as ‘guided imagery’.
5) Yoga and breathing
Yoga is known, universally, as a relaxing form of exercise so this is a no brainer for de-stressing. However, for people who don’t like to practise yoga, deep breathing is an option. Deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain, which stimulates the parasympathetic nerves and induces calmness. Experts recommend 15-30 minutes, daily.
6) Distract yourself
You can distract yourself by focusing on other things such as watching television or a funny viral video, cooking or some other hobbies. Sharing your problems with your friends and expressing your negative feelings to a listening ear or even your pet, can be extremely helpful.
7) Nap, nap, nap
A good slumber has been scientifically proven to help those who are stressed to relieve their anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve cognitive functioning too. About 20-30 minutes would be sufficient. While you’re at it, give yourself some vacation time from your screen. So that means take time out from Facebook, Instagram and whatever social media platform you’re hooked on!
8) Laugh heartily
Laugh out loud, when you’re stressed, and let the oxygen fill your lungs, stimulate your heart and muscles. This will increase the endorphins that give you that happy feeling.
9) Keep your hands busy
Doing handicraft such as knitting and painting or even wood carving will relax your mind, as the repetitive movements will be soothing and relaxing.
10) Pamper yourself with food
Even though you don’t have a sweet tooth, eat a candy or chocolate. It’s known to calm down a person. Sugar is found scientifically to reduce the levels of stress hormone called cortisol. So, if you feel stressed, eat some sugary stuff or something which you love. But, be careful not to overdo it because it may lead to stress or emotional eating, which is a dangerous habit to fall into (please see How to overcome stress eating). Alternatively, you can just chew on a gum, as scientists found this to be another method to relax.
What is stress eating?
If you find yourself
- Eating when you’re bored or lonely
- Eating to feel better
- Eating even when you are full
- Eating until you feel so full that you cannot eat anymore
- Eating to reward yourself
- Eating because you feel insecure
- Eating just because you see food and you want to eat
- Eating out of frustration related to work or unemployment
- Eating out of frustration because of financial problem or relationship problem
Then you’re experiencing stress eating or emotional eating.
People who are stressed and have anxiety trying to sort out their challenges, feel out of control. So, they eat to de-stress themselves. If they are not careful, they will cultivate stress eating habits.
Some emotional eaters gained their habits from childhood when their parents rewarded them with food for good behaviour or they experienced food deprivation as a punishment, making them see food as a way of comforting themselves.
Food, to stress eaters, is used to fill a void. To relieve feelings of sadness or guilt. This is different from binge eating disorders which occurs when a person consume a large amount of food in a short time because of lack of control.
Stress or emotional eating may be one method to de-stress but it can also affect you in negative ways, physically and mentally.
How to overcome stress eating?
If you’re stress eating, then you must find the source of the problem.
- Identify your emotions
You must try to understand and identify the feelings that are causing you to eat because you are stressed. Were you stressed from work? From worries? Anxious? Angry? Once you know your triggers, you can learn how to stop it.
- Keep a journal
Keep a journal to record when you feel stressed and a journal when you experience emotional eating. Compare these journals and discover the patterns in your behaviours. Then try to change the patterns or try to use other de-stressing methods. When you feel you want to eat, try waiting 15 minutes or more, relax, and then, see if you still want to eat. Jot this down in your journal as well.
- Maintain mindful eating with healthy food
Stock up healthy foods such as organic foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Then, try controlling the portion that you eat, reducing the amount slowly at each eating. If you really must eat snacks, put these in individual small-sized plastic bags and only eat one bag at a time. This will help you to eat smaller portions. And, eat slowly. Savour every bite. This will slow down your urge and you will end up eating less.