Simple tips to help you out of the pressure cooker
By Karen Kwan
Your neck and shoulders are tighter than Joe Manganiello’s abs. Maybe you’re hoovering down sugary foods or ones loaded with fat, or sleeping so poorly you’re seeing the sunrise every morning—and not in a romantic or the-early-bird-gets-the-worm way, but rather because you’ve tossed and turned all night and haven’t slept a wink. We all experience stress in our own personal ways. Going through ups and downs when it comes to your stress levels is common, and is sometimes even good for you—a study has shown that it can possibly help give your brain a boost when it comes to learning. But being stressed out over a long term can affect your immune system, for one, and also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. So keep it in check by adding these stress-busting strategies to your routine.
Float your stress away
Bobbing in a dark tank filled with high-salt water might sound scary to some of us, but it’s a proven stress buster. Using a sensory deprivation or float tank has been found to improve sleep and boost mood, while also cutting down on feelings of depression and anxiety. It seems that the weightless feeling helps to induce the body’s healing process.
Sweat it off
That runner’s high or, more specifically, the release of endorphins that comes from physical activity, helps to lower stress (if running isn’t your thing, not to worry—any type of workout can help trigger those feel-good hormones). Exercise also works to relieve stress because it distracts you from the issues that are bothering you; rather than fixating on the delays in your home renovation, for example, you’re focused on getting that ball across the court in a game of tennis. And yet only 40 per cent of Canadians use fitness as a coping mechanism, according to a McMaster University study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health in 2014.
Eat anxiety-reducing foods
When you’ve got a deadline and it’s crunch time, chances are you’re craving some junk food—but a poor diet will feed your stress rather than help alleviate it. Rather than those comfort foods, load up on wholesome foods that will help you keep calm and carry on: think foods with folic acid (low levels of this vitamin have been linked to depression) such as asparagus and lentils, and vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges (C has been found to lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, aka the stress hormone).
Do something repetitive
Knit and purl your way to being stress free, hit the squash court, or colour. Hobbies and activities that have a repetitive motion have a calming effect by taking your mind off your stressors, and can result in lowering your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension. Simply repeating a word or phrase can have the same effect.
Laugh it off
You’ve got a great reason to bugger off and catch the latest Will Ferrell movie when feeling stressed: a good giggle helps to trigger your body to relax and mellow out. A good bout of laughter can also help strengthen your immune system and lower levels of stress hormones. So take that half-hour to watch an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.