Four ways to reduce stress and anxiety

Four ways to reduce stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety affect us in several ways, both physically and emotionally. During difficult situations your body might create a stress response.

These can include feelings of constant worry, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, irritability, depression, change in eating habits, muscle tension, diarrhoea and constipation and feelings of nausea or dizziness.

If you’re stressed due to work, your environment, an issue in your personal life or something else, the first step you can take to feeling better is to identify the cause of your concern.  If you can understand the root of your worries, making a change to address the situation can be quick and easy.

But, for most of us, it can take time to reduce stress and anxiety - especially if you need to make impactful changes to your life. Here are some steps you can try to help you reduce stress and anxiety:

One: Take some exercise

Being active is not only good for health and fitness, but evidence shows it can improve mental wellbeing by:

  • Causing a release of chemicals in the brain, which can positively change your mood
  • Clearing negative thoughts and letting you deal with problems more calmly
  • Helping you to set goals and targets
  • Giving you an achievable goal; low to moderate intensity exercise can work as well as high intensity to reduce stress and anxiety

Two:  Avoid unhealthy habits

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine, fast food and sweet treats (when consumed above the recommended levels) are poor coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.

  • Government guidelines recommend no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for men and women. This is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine. Lowering or removing alcohol entirely from your diet can directly reduce your stress and anxiety
  • Cut down or stop smoking if you do
  • It’s recommended that you reduce your caffeine intake if you’re stressed or anxious. Try de-caffeinated drinks, or abstain from caffeine after midday, to help improve relaxation closer to bedtime

Three:  Take time out

  • Take time to relax
  • Explore relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, yoga or breathing exercises
  • Tell yourself that it’s okay to prioritise self-care. Take a break from stressful situations where and when you can
  • Take regular breaks from work
  • Eat lunch away from your desk while at work

Four:  Get some restful sleep

  • Improve your sleeping environment by removing distractions, such as the TV and electronic gadgets with continuous light, from the bedroom
  • Switch off electronic screens at least an hour before going to sleep; the earlier the better
  • Adjust your sleeping environment if it’s too hot or cold, or if there’s too much light or noise – eye masks and ear plugs can help
  • Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and sugary snacks close to bedtime

There are many tips and ideas that can work to reduce your stress and anxiety. Some of these lifestyle changes will work better for you than others. Goal setting, writing things down and keeping a diary can also help you to make these changes, plus they’re good for reducing stress and anxiety themselves.

For further support, the Mental Health Foundation has created an article around How to reduce and manage stress, or you can read our own top tips on how to relax and recover.

Published on 17 April 2020