April is Stress Awareness Month. Since 1992, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the UK have joined forces every April to increase the public’s awareness of the causes and cures for stress.
We all suffer from stress every now and again, whether it is due to work or home life. Constant stress, however, can have real physical effects on the body.
It has been linked to a wide range of health issues including mood, appetite and sleep problems – and even heart disease. In this week’s blog we have some top tips on how to manage your stress levels.
Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine and Sugar
Try to reduce your consumption of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your stress levels. While alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities, it acts as a stimulant in smaller doses. Therefore, using alcohol to alleviate stress isn’t advised.
Replace caffeinated and alcoholic drinks with water, natural fruit juices and herbal teas. Keeping yourself hydrated is a good way to enable your body to cope better with stressful situations.
Minimising refined sugars is another way to feel calmer. Refined sugars are found in many manufactured foods (even in things like bread and cereals) and can cause energy crashes – leading to negative feelings of irritability and fatigue. Eating a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet is preferable.
Go for a Walk
Stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, increase in our bodies during stressful situations. Physical exercise can metabolise these stress hormones and restore your body to a more relaxed state.
Go for a walk, preferably in an area surrounded by greenery, shrubs, flowers and distractions – like Peterborough One! This will also help to clear your thoughts with a change of scenery and fresh air. Take a few deep breaths during the walk to give you an oxygen boost and relieve tension.
Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.
If you’re feeling stressed, take some time out to close your eyes and imagine a ‘happy place’. This can be a beach, your family home, somewhere beautiful around Peterborough or anywhere that serves to raise a smile.
Whilst we want you to be up-to-date with information from PE1’s social media pages and website, constantly staring at phones, computers and TVs can add to stress levels.
So, try to switch off from digital for a least a couple of hours each day. It’s also important to avoid looking at screens an hour before bedtime, to allow your brain a break and aid a good night’s sleep.
It’s well known that music has soothing powers. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies and is an extremely effective stress management tool. So, scoot over to Spotify and help those feel-good neurochemicals start to flow!
You don’t have to be an expert crafter to find relief from stress through crafting. Even simple knitting, sewing, cross stitch and painting activities can help.
It’s been proven that the simplest of crafting can help cognitively, because it allows a person to find some peace and focus in an activity. This is called ‘flow’. Crafting requires repetitive fine motor skills that are great for calming anxiety.
Laughter diffuses stress. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. So, go to watch a funny play, see a comedy gig or share jokes with a friend.
Keep a stress diary. This is an effective way to become more aware of the situations that can cause you to become stressed. Note down the days and times of stressful episodes and how you felt at the time – both physically and emotionally.
Give each episode a rating on a stress scale (from 1 – 10) and re-look at the diary to learn what triggers your stress. This will help you to become more aware of how you react to stress and develop better coping mechanisms.
And last, but by no means least, retail therapy is a great way of engaging all the senses! Perhaps a trip to Peterborough One is just what’s required to sooth away the stress?
Find out more about Stress Awareness Month.