Bad Day? 32 Life Hacks to Combat Stress
By Trudi Purdy, wlr team
Do you reach for food when life is stressing you out?
- A bad day at work = wine and chocolate in the evening
- The kids getting on every single one of your nerves = crisps and dip
- Life just generally being busy and stress = One (or five) gin and tonics
You’re not alone.
A survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation think-tank discovered that 3 in 4 people in the UK have or do suffer with stress.
And it seems women are the worst affected. 74% of people who participated in the survey had felt so stressed they were overwhelmed or unable to cope, 81% of women said so compared to 67% of men.
Some stress throughout our lives in inevitable but how do we cope with it without adding to our waistlines?
We have put together a list of 32 life hacks to help you de-stress and relax.
Live, Love Laugh
You’ve seen the Live, Love Laugh signs that people can buy to put on the walls right? They may not be your cup of tea but taking what they say a little more seriously could help you de-stress when you’re not at work.
Adopt the Tibetan Buddhist practice of always living in the moment. I’m not suggesting you become a Buddhist but the practice of concentrating on the moment you are in can help stop your mind wandering back to the list of tasks left to do at work, the meeting you have tomorrow etc.
If you are watching TV, watch it. If you are eating, make sure you have no distractions and savour what you are eating. If you are with friends or family, be with them – turn off your phone or put it out of reach. Make sure nothing distracts you from the activity you are doing.
Laughter really is good for you. It helps to relax tense muscles, triggers the release of feel good hormones and can ease tiredness. It can also help burn extra calories!
Search out those things that make you giggle. A funny film, your favourite comedian’s show, an upbeat friend, a witty book, a video of the kids doing something funny.
And if you can manage some really good nearly-wet-myself-belly-laughs, even better!
Yourself, a pet, a person, a hobby.
Find something that brings you joy when you think about doing it or seeing them and make time for whatever it is in your life.
Even thinking about it will help you start to feel a little more relaxed.
Don’t Skip Meals
Although the whole point of these life hacks are to help you stop eating too much when you’re stressed, being hangry won’t help your mood.
Make sure you don’t skip meals and that the food you eat is nutritious and satisfying so hunger isn’t another factor to add to your stress.
This stands for positive mental attitude.
Start the day with a smile. Spend a few minutes when you wake thinking about things you have to be grateful for – your health, your home, your kids (sometimes!), your family. How about a trip you went on that you loved? Or a show that you saw that made you happy? A perfume or smell that you love sniffing?
Dig deep and find the things in your life that make your smile, think about them and start the day off right.
Let It Go
The bus was late, you got caught in a traffic jam, someone was rude to you in the queue for your morning coffee or, even worse, the barista got your coffee order wrong. Let it go!
How you react to things that upset you can have an effect on the whole day. You could sit and let it fester, making you more and more cross. But is that going to make it any better?
No, of course it isn’t, so let it go.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it. Don’t let 5 minutes out of your day dictate how the rest of it will be.
It’s been well documented that exercise can help make you feel good. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins – the feel good hormones.
The problem is, when you’re time poor, trying to shoe horn some exercise into an already busy day can add to your day to day stress.
Cut back on the time you spend watching TV or browsing the internet and use that time to get some exercise in. You don’t watch TV or browse the internet? Then try some of these:
- Why not make exercise part of your commute? Get off the bus or the train a few stops before yours and walk the rest of the way.
- Take the dog on an extra long walk or adopt the neighbour's dog and walk it.
- Park in a different car park so you have a 10 minute walk to work.
- When you get up in the morning or get home at the end of the day, pop your favourite music track on and dance like no one is watching.
And talking of dancing to your favourite music, just sitting and listening to some music that makes you happy is a great way to de-stress. Especially if you can sit without any other distractions and just listen.
Let your mind think about the lyrics, or where you were when you first heard that track, or just 'be' while you listen.
Singing or humming can help you de-stress too as it relaxes the throat, neck and chest muscles. When you’re stressed, you might find you clench your jaw, singing can help make you unclench it. Just be careful where you are and how loud you sing. On the bus is a bad idea and you don’t want to upset your neighbours!
Use this as your new mantra! Change what you can, accept what you can’t change and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Don’t try to be perfect, just try to be you.
Organising your handbag so you’re not constantly rummaging and looking for what you need can be quite cathartic.
Do you really need all six lipsticks when you only ever wear the same one? Get rid of all the pens – you only need one don’t you? Throw away or file the millions of receipts floating around in there. Be ruthless and get organised.
You could use the same ruthlessness at home and get rid of the clutter there too. An organised home can help calm your mind – after all, your home is your sanctuary.
The colours you surround yourself with can affect your mood.
While I’m not suggesting you redecorate your home, even wearing the right colours can affect your mood.
- Red – power, energy, stimulates the brain
- Orange – comfort, warmth, creativity
- Yellow – draws attention, positivity, sunny
- Green – healthy, renewal, nature, calming
- Blue – improves concentration, order, calmness, trust, cleanliness
Colour therapists believe that different colours in the spectrum correspond with the body’s inner vibrations. You could try visiting a colour therapist who will use specific colours to ‘heal’ the afflicted parts of your body and mind.
A colour therapist can use a variety of techniques including:
- Directing specific colours or lights on different parts of your body
- Practicing acupuncture with colours
- Using colours with chakras
- Colour breathing
- Colour visualisation
- Colour essences on the skin
- Coloured foods
- Advice on colours to wear
Try searching the internet for a colour therapist near you.
Sometimes, taking time to pause and reset the mind can be enough to feel better in the moment. But the practice of mediation in the long term has been proved to alleviate stress, anxiety and fear.
Located deep in the brain’s limbic system are two almond-sized nuclei called the amygdale – processing chips that govern our senses, memories, moods etc.
The amygdale is our emotional thermostat. Meditation helps regulate the amygdale and turn the temperature down, going from overheated (stressed, irrational, reactive) to the chill setting (calm, rational, level headed).
Simple mediation for beginners:
- Sit or lie somewhere comfortable
- Close your eyes (you could really make the most of this time and use an eye mask while meditating!)
- Slow your breathing naturally and relax
- Focus on your breathing and how your body moves with each breath. If your mind starts wandering, bring it back to your breathing
- Do this for as long as you feel you need to but for at least 5 minutes
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Sometimes you will crack it and others you will find it hard to let your mind focus on your breathing. Practice makes perfect. If you feel you need help, there are DVDs, YouTube videos and apps available.
Reiki is a ‘hands-on’ energy healing technique that is said to balance the body’s energy centres – the chakras. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as 'A healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.'
The practitioner will place their hands on or over the body for up to 10 minutes in each area. You may feel a flow of energy, mild tingling, warmth, coolness etc.
You can find a list of practitioners at The UK Reiki Federation.
Massage and Essential Oils
Massage and the use of essential oils can help relax a stressed body and mind.
I love a hot stones massage when I can. An hour of being gently massaged with warm stones and relaxing oils works wonders for me and I leave feeling relaxed, calm and pampered.
If you haven’t got time for an hour long massage, using essential oil burners around the home can also help. The same effect can be achieved with bowls of warm water placed on the radiators with a few drops of your favourite essential oils. The warmth from the radiator helps the oils release their scents into the room.
Here are some oils to try:
- Cinnamon Leaf
- Ylang Ylang
- Tea Tree
Just remember that a few drops go a long way, so be sparing. And also make sure you use a carrier oil rather than putting essential oils directly on the skin.
How about a nice relaxing bath with essential oils?
- Fill your bath with warm, not hot, water
- Add a few drops of your favourite oils just before you step in
- Dim the lights and use candles if you can
- Shut the door to keep from being disturbed and to keep the lovely smells in
- Leave your phone outside and turn on some soothing music
- Lie back and breathe deeply
- Start at the top of your head and relax every muscle in your body by clenching and unclenching it as you work your way down to your toes
- When you’re ready, get out and dry yourself with a warm, fluffy towel and wrap up in a dressing gown
There are lots of different types of yoga but restorative is great to help you relax and stretch out your body.
There are loads of YouTube videos and tutorials on the internet that you could use but a beginner’s course with a trained practitioner is a good idea to make sure you are doing the poses correctly.
Imagine you’re lying on a deserted beach, listening to the waves lapping and your mind will think it’s on holiday!
Visualisation therapy was devised by an American radiotherapist who recognised the power of the mind when treating cancer patients.
He believed that we can fight illness and control stress with the power of our imagination.
Try it for yourself. Lie back and think of a restful scene and focus on feeling the sun on your skin, hearing the waves lapping at the shore until all other thoughts have vanished.
Known as meditation in motion, Tai Chi concentrates on slow, flowing movements to relieve stress and strengthen the body. The gentle movements have been shown to relax muscles and slow a busy mind down.
To find a class, check out The Tai Chi Union for Great Britain.
- Take time out to give yourself some self love
- Go to the hairdressers and get your hair done – if you look good, you’ll feel good
- Spend a guilt free day in bed or just pottering around the house in your PJs
- Have a hot towel shave or a facial
- Get a manicure or a pedicure
- Sit on a bench by a lake or a river and just be
- Take a walk in the countryside
- Read your favourite book or find a new one to enjoy
- Play a game with the kids (Monopoly may not be the best idea!)
Try these 5 minute stress fixers
- Be nice to someone – pay them a compliment or smile at them
- Stroke or play with an animal
- Plan a fun day out or a trip
- Be a Good Samaritan and do a good deed