women
Racing heart, sweaty palms and a sick feeling in your stomach. Although a massage or a weekend away would be an ideal fix for stress, in a busy day we don’t always have time to chill out for long. But the good news is you can put the brakes on the panic in just a few minutes, wherever you are.

 

1.   Face your fear

“Most people run away from stress by over-exercising, overeating, drinking, smoking, biting their nails or just plain fidgeting,” says osteopath Clifford Avery, adding that what we actually need to do is face stress head-on. “Sit in a chair and invite all the worst feelings of stress to come to you and to do their worse. The symptoms will then rush in, but what you’ll see is that nothing bad will happen. These feelings can’t harm you; the dread itself is worse than experiencing them. Repeat this exercise daily over a period of weeks and the symptoms will slowly disappear.

 

2.   Take back control

Psychologist Clare Mann says we can reduce symptoms of stress, like elevated heart rate and high blood pressure, by controlling our breathing. “When we’re very stressed, angry, or anxious, blood rushes to the back of our brain, making us unable to calm down,” she explains. “Breathing can help bring you back to the present.” Avery recommends this simple exercise: “Take a deep breath, then pause, before breathing out for as long as possible. Repeat 2-3 times.”

 

3.   Talk to yourself

“By improving your level of intimacy with your body, the earlier it will inform you when it’s unhappy,” points out Avery. “One way to do this is to talk to your body as though it were a separate entity. Think of it like a stressed or anxious child, who you would talk to in a soothing tone. By applying the same principle to yourself, you can calm your consciousness.” Mann agrees, adding, “Give yourself a pep talk, as you would a worried friend. Repeat the same phrases to yourself – ‘I understand, it’ll be OK, things will get better’ – and you’ll feel comforted and calmer.”

 

4.   Tap into stress

“Tapping, or the emotional freedom technique, refocuses your body to decrease negative feelings”, says Mann. Close your eyes and identify how you’re feeling, be it anxious, nauseous, etc. Using the tips of your fingers, tap on your wrist while repeating this phrase three times: “Although I am feeling anxious, I totally accept, support and respect myself.” Then tap your forehead, each temple, each cheek, your mouth, chin and throat, while repeating the phrase. Next, tap around your heart, still repeating the phrase, and notice how your breathing has slowed and how much calmer you feel.

 

5.   Get a visual

Mann says one of the most effective ways to ease anxiety is to use this visualisation technique: “If a particular person is making you feel stressed, close your eyes and picture them in your hand as red hot in colour. Then make the image black and white. Start to make it smaller and smaller until it’s a tiny speck, then blow it away. Practise this and the person will affect you less.

 

 

Control cortisol:

The hormone cortisol is released to help us cope with stress, but high levels – which can be caused by consuming caffeine – can lead to insomnia and dehydration. So switch to decaf and drink a glass of water before you go to bed and as soon as you get up.

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