Be kind to your brain

Be kind to your brain

Want to stop being a total stress ball? Here are seven simple steps you can take to beat the big bad. For good!

 

Life brings stressful moments for us all: a job interview, speaking in public, exams, getting married etc. It’s entirely normal - and rational - to have a short-term stress response in advance of such events. Then afterwards, once they’re over, you feel grand and go back to normal.

That’s how it should be but when insidious stress creeps into your everyday life, that’s when problems can start.

Day by day, little by little, a bit more weight is added. Slowly your ability to deal with sudden upsets, things going wrong, or people being idiots seems to wear away. Issues become a much bigger deal than they should be. You’re like a hamster in a wheel, until one day you fall over  and can’t get up. Hello, chronic stress.

 

How to deal with it

It’s a rare person that doesn’t get affected by stress so it’s essential to try to get a handle on it. Things like chamomile tea, lavender pillow sprays, aromatherapy candles, and calm-inducing supplements can all help to some extent but you need to get the issue under control.

 

1) Recognise the signs

The first step is to realise you’re stressed. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and when you sense anxiety rising or that you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to step back from the situation (if possible) or up your self-care routine.

 

2) Get proper rest

Do all you can to make sure you get quality sleep: have your bedroom dark and cool at nighttime, enforce a no-screen embargo for an hour before bed, cut back on caffeine and if your mind is whirring, try writing down your thoughts to empty your brain. Check out our guide to getting quality sleep.

 

3) Just breathe (no, really!)

Not only is breathing terribly important for, y’know, staying alive and all, when you breathe slowly and deeply you engage a cranial nerve called the vagus nerve. It signals your nervous system to decrease cortisol levels and lower your blood pressure. When you catch yourself feeling stressed, take ten deep breaths to kick-start this calming response.

 

4) Start meditating

Meditation is a way of calming your mind and makes you focus on your breathing (another shout out to the vagus nerve!). Getting into the habit of sitting in stillness and calming your body and mind – even if it’s just for a few minutes every morning – will help. Need a little help? Click here for some expert meditation tips.

 

5) Exercise

Regular exercise is brilliant and boosts serotonin levels to help you feel good. Martial art and boxing can be great ways to mimic that fight response but any aerobic activity (walking, swimming, running etc) will help keep cortisol levels in check. Yoga is doubly helpful as it combines exercise with mindfulness.

 

6) Eat well

There’s a compulsion to comfort eat crap when you’re stressed, but a healthy diet is important. Studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids (which are found in oily fish, nuts and avocados) help with neurological function and may keep the immune system in good shape.

 

7) Talk to someone

When you’re stressed you can be inclined to squirrel yourself away but talking to friends and family can help. Having a chat with a counselor can go a long way to sorting the issue if you think you’re struggling and they will also help you develop the tools for a calmer life.