The most wonderful time of the year is approaching! While we may be missing the barbeques, short sleeves and long summer days, we have magical things like mulled wine, Christmas lights and delectable festive food to look forward to! But as many workplaces prepare to shut down for the holidays, stress levels rise as we all run around trying to close off our projects so that we can start the new year with a clean slate.
Stress takes its toll on the body, resulting in an increase in blood pressure, heartburn, headaches, and exhaustion. It also manifests psychologically, with symptoms including irritability, anxiety, depression and insomnia. All of this compounds to create a state of unhappiness and, the opposite of what we’re aiming to achieve, a lack of productivity. But there is hope! Here are 7 things that you can do to combat stress, promote mindfulness and make the most of year-end excitement!
1. Change what you eat
As I write this, I have a nice big box of doughnuts on my desk, which I bought to help me combat Monday blues. When we’re stressed, we reach out for comfort foods, but according to research, they actually make us feel worse, as we often feel lethargic and guilty after consuming heavy foods. You’d be better off reaching into the veggie box because healthy foods like green vegetables, blueberries, yoghurt, and salmon or turkey breast are proven to reduce stress levels which in turn promotes mindfulness. If you still feel like you need something sweet, go for antioxidant-rich dark chocolate which reduces stress hormones, and also triggers the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.
2. Get some exercise
Keeping active is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Not only does physical effort distract your mind, but it also releases endorphins, your brains natural feel-good neurotransmitters. An exercise that focuses on breathing as well as physical action, such as yoga or tai-chi, is also good for mindfulness. Whatever style of exercise you prefer, it’s always better if you’re doing something you love. Hiking, running, swimming, karate, rock climbing and even gardening are great, fun ways to get your body moving and your blood flowing.
3. Creative outlets
When you are feeling overwhelmed and under pressure, having a couple of hours of me-time can make all the difference. While it might seem like a good idea to just plop down on the couch with Netflix and a glass of wine, you may end up adding to your stress if you start feeling guilty about the fact that you are doing nothing when you have so much to do. Hobbies provide a slice of work- and responsibility-free time in your schedule, while still keeping you busy and your mind active. Painting, drawing or colouring can help as a creative outlet, while DIY, baking and making can help you achieve a sense of accomplishment. Hand-made gifts are also good for your year-end financial stresses.
4. Talk it out
Do you struggle to share your stresses for fear of being judged or feeling like you’re not good enough? That’s normal, but just letting your stress out can in itself have a calming effect, and will reduce the risk of a breakdown. Try to identify someone you can talk to about your anxieties, like a parent, partner, friend or even a professional – sharing the burden will lighten the load.
5. Write it out
Sometimes you don’t want to talk about it. Maybe you’re not looking for advice, just an ear, or maybe you feel like your worries are embarrassing (note: they never are). So when you don’t want to talk, write it out. The anxieties buzzing around in your head can be a major distraction, and can even result in insomnia. Putting your thoughts to paper at the end of the day can be a great way to get them out of your head, and can have the added benefit of helping to define a to-do list for the next day.
6. Listen to music
Listening to music is good for mindfulness, and because you can do it while getting through your to-do list, you can also do it guilt-free. According to the University of Nevada, “Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day.”
7. Tech to relax
We’ve all read the articles that tell us about the adverse effect of smartphones on our stress levels, but there are ways that our phones can actually be our friends when it comes to stress relief. This is thanks to the plethora of apps available to help us deal with stress. Here are a couple and how they can help:
- Calm – guided meditation, mindfulness masterclasses, music and sleep stories
- Lifetick – helping you set up, track and reach your goals
- Journey – Diary, Journal – keep your journal on your phone, and relive your memories by adding photos. It can also track body movement to help you keep track of your exercise goals
- Fabulous – Despite its peculiar name, this app is great for helping you to build healthy habits
In addition to all this, spending time with loved ones is also a proven way to reduce stress, so make sure you make the most of your Christmas parties and year-end functions, and surround yourself with love!
Last updated on 24 February 2021Share this article