Posted on: 02 April 2021
April marks the start of Stress Awareness Month. Given the events of the last 12 months, we’re all mindful of the need to manage our stress levels day-to-day.
For background on how stress affects our mind and body, check out our previous article ‘How to manage stress in daily life.’
1. Free eco therapy
Studies have shown that there’s a connection between spending time in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Just 90 minutes in a natural environment lowers blood pressure, soothes the mind and decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Even if you live and work in an urban area, try to find some local green space to spend time in – search online for public parks, gardens, playing fields, and nature reserves near you.
2. Train your brain
Training your brain has a host of cognitive health benefits, including improved confidence and self-esteem. Try an app like Peak (available for free on Android and iOS) where you can play games to test and improve your focus, memory, and problem-solving skills.
3. Try a gratitude journal
We’ve all had those days (particularly over the last 12 months) where it seems everything is rubbish and there’s nothing to look forward to. It might sound a bit airy fairy but taking a minute to appreciate good things in our lives can be helpful for breaking out of this spiral of negative thoughts.
When we express gratitude our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel good. According to Harvard Medical Journal, people who show gratitude on a regular basis are happier, sleep better, and exercise more. So once a week, write down a list of things you feel grateful for.
This could be big things like love of family, enjoying good health, the beauty of the natural world… or things we sometimes take for granted like a roof over our head, food on the table, or a nice sunny day.
4. Step it up
Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems, and vice versa. One of the easiest ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine is walking – but walking the recommended 10,000 steps a day can seem like a challenge if it’s been a while since you exercised.
So start small: 1,000 steps a day, increasing it by 500 steps each day. You don’t need to go on long walks – did you know vacuuming for 20 minutes equals around 1,500 steps? To gain cardiovascular benefits of walking, aim for moderate intensity – fast enough to warm up and feel slightly out of breath. Use a simple pedometer or free phone app to track your steps. If you’re motivated by competition, get a friendly rivalry going with family or friends over who can clock up the most steps.
5. Ask for help
Talking about your feelings can help you maintain good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Sharing how you feel – good or bad – with a trusted listener can help you let off steam and prevent stress building up.
But we’re only human. We all sometimes get overwhelmed when things don’t go to plan. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear. Check out our article ‘How to ask for help with mental wellbeing’ for more advice and support.