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Try a “Pick and Mix” approach to help offset feelings of stress and anxiety

We may not be able to eliminate all our stress and anxiety but we can learn to offset them using various strategies.  The best approach to use will depend on individual choice; think of it as visiting a sweet shop – one person may never eat liquorice whilst another will devour it but that same liquorice lover won’t always choose liquorice, sometimes they will fancy something else.

So, try a ‘pick and mix’ approach to the following strategies:

Deep breathing – can help to increase your mental and physical energy, increasing the oxygen saturation of the blood and removing pollutants through the lymph nodes.  Practicing 10 paced breathing cycles three times during the day will instil feelings of calm and clarify thinking.  To complete one cycle – concentrating on your breath; breath in deeply, hold and then exhale fully.  Use a 1:4:2 ratio, for example breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 8 seconds and breathe out over 4 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.  Start off with a period you feel comfortable and you can then progress, with practice, to perhaps breathing in for 4 secs, holding for 16 secs and breathing out over 8 secs.

Stimulate the relaxation response – sit comfortably or lie down, close your eyes and work through your body relaxing your muscles.  Then concentrate only on your deep breathing for 10 to 20 minutes.  When thoughts try to break through, say “dismiss” or whichever word works for you and return to concentrating on your breath.  At the end of the relaxation period you have set yourself, remain quiet with your eyes closed for a minute to allow your thoughts to return, then open your eyes and sit for a further minute before continuing with your day.

Be grateful – if someone asks how your day has gone, do you respond with what was good about it or list the things that went wrong?  Making a conscious choice to let go of anger and be grateful for the positive things in your life will increase your energy and off-set the unpredictability and stresses of life.  So, at the end of the day, either write down or list at least 3 things you are grateful for, or have gone well that day rather than focusing on what you didn’t achieve.

Exercise – remember that exercise isn’t just about the physical benefits, it also helps both our mental and emotional state.  As so many of us spend many hours each day sitting in front of a screen, our bodies suffer from this sedentary lifestyle.  So, a short walk in natural surroundings or somewhere quiet to do some stretching exercises can increase your physical and mental energy, lift your mood and increase your self-esteem.

Engage – humans are social animals, and the social support we give and receive can provide a real shield from stress.  Try calling a friend or family member who you haven’t talk to for a while or arrange to go out for a coffee.  Research shows that even spending a minute outside can improve our mood and outlook, and time spent in nature can lower our blood pressure.  So, rather than thinking of going for a walk with a colleague, friend or partner as a luxury that you don’t really have time for, consider it an investment in your health and wellbeing.

Sleep – we can all compare how we feel about life and how events affect us when we have had a bad night’s sleep to when we have had a good night’s sleep.  Getting sufficient sleep is key to counterbalancing stress and developing your own night time ritual will provide your unconscious with a strong message that you are ready for sleep.  It will be individual choice as to what works for you e.g. reading, relaxing in a bath, listening to music but keep electronic gadgets and televisions away from your sleeping space as they will stimulate rather than relax you.

Please note that the above is not an exhaustive list of strategies which can be used to off-set stress and anxiety and that to receive the best benefit any strategy should be practiced regularly until it becomes automatic.

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