Stress is present in most people’s lives. It is an unavoidable part of daily life with all its pressures and responsibilities. While some turn to alcohol or drugs to unwind and cope, there are many natural, spiritually enhancing methods which work much better and without side-effects. (By the way do not go off any medication without first discussing it with your doctor. Depression can be a deadly illness and should be treated by professionals. These tips are not designed to replace professional medical therapy)
Exercise: Exercise has been proven over and over again to reduce stress and increase resilience to pressure. You don’t have to go mad at the gym either, scientists recently discovered that walking for just 30 minutes a day, 6 times a week can reduce stress and depression by around 50%. Not too far off the improvement that anti-depressants give. Just strolling around your neighbourhood or walking to the shop or kids’ school each day will improve your mental health and energy levels as well as physical fitness.
Meditation: If I could pick one thing that can change people’s lives for the better, physically, mentally and spiritually it would be meditation. Practiced for millennia, it soothes the mind and body and opens up the soul to a higher spiritual vibration. While many people find that sitting quietly is the best form of meditation, there are also active meditations which involve walking, dancing etc. One of my clients who is a very busy woman, listens to her ipod and hums along with the music as she does the housework. For her this is a very effective meditation. The repetitive action of cleaning and scrubbing along with humming deeply in her chest soothes her nerves, clears her mind and revitalises her energy levels– and she gets a clean house out of it too! The point is, as long as it relaxes you, makes your mind clear and free from stress and lifts your spirits, it will help you to cope. For beginners I suggest using a meditation CD (find them online) to get you into the swing of things. Don’t worry if nothing much happens to begin with. Like everything it can take practice to get the full benefit.
Diet: A diet high in junk food, sugar and refined foods is disastrous for your mental wellbeing. Most of the body’s mood regulating chemicals are made in the gut not the brain, so what you eat and how healthy your digestion is can really effect how well you manage. I stopped getting tension headaches 2 -3 times a week when I substituted a bowl of natural yoghurt and honey for my regular evening pig out on chocolate (yes, I was once a terrible chocoholic). Taking a probiotic or drinking Yakult (Woolworths do a cheap version) each day can really help too. Lots of veggies, some fruit and a bowl of porridge for breakfast will improve your physical health and your emotional wellbeing too.
Its’ not just what you eat – it also matters when you eat it. Skipping meals, grabbing snacks on the go instead of regular meals will make your blood sugar go all over the place and make you feel more moody, cranky or tearful. Anyone with a hungry toddler will know what I mean – we just don’t really grow out of it as much as we would like to think!
Sleep: If you are stressed the first thing that can get affected is sleep (and appetite). Sleep is one of your best defences against feeling overwhelmed by stress, so trying to get more sleep will help enormously. Get into a bed time routine. A nice relaxing bath, meditation, and a regular bedtime will all help you to sleep. Don’t watch TV in bed, keep your bedroom for sleep and romantic intimacy, not writing, reading or anything which stimulates the mind. Cut out caffeine after 5pm – the old fashioned remedy of warm milk before bed has scientific back up, as the natural chemicals in milk are relaxing.