April is National Stress Awareness Month, so what better timing to share my go-to products, routines and techniques to help de-stress when I feel things getting a little too much. Although April is the month to build awareness around stress and the importance of taking time out for yourself, everything below applies to all year round.
Since being signed off from work for seven weeks due to stress, I’ve learned so much about how stress impacts both your physical and mental health. I’ve spent that time off really focusing on myself: mindfulness practices, healthy eating, and understanding how stress impacts me personally.
It affects everyone in different ways, but in my experience I endured:
- Constant mental and physical fatigue, even after a decent sleep
- Increased frustration and being irritable
- Stomach problems
- Tension headaches
- Feeling emotional 24/7
- Difficulty getting to sleep, or frequent sleep disruptions
So, here’s how I destress. Some of these are daily habits, some weekly and some monthly.
Acknowledge your triggers
Do you know what’s causing stress? It could be work, health, money or social situations for example. Whatever your trigger(s) is, once you acknowledge it you’re one step closer to helping yourself. For me, work was my biggest trigger. Although it resulted in me being signed off work for seven weeks, that isn’t always necessary. I was able to pinpoint what exactly at work was triggering stress to ensure I’m not faced with it once I return.
When I feel any of the above symptoms, I’ve learned to take myself away from the situation or distract my mind if it’s all mental stress, by doing some guided meditation. I use the Calm app and my favourite narrators are Tamar Levitt and Jeff Warren. For me, it’s not sometimes about what the person is saying, but how they say it. So it really is a personal preference as to which narrator you prefer.
But I digress… for me, guided meditation instantly calms me. I feel relaxed, less tense and more focused on the present moment. Sometimes I may only need five minutes, other times it could be 15-20 minutes.
Once a month, I treat myself to a pamper session where I go out and get a treatment of some kind: manicure, haircut, massage or crystal healing to name a few. Anything to treat myself and make me feel good afterwards. Crystal Healing is a new one for me, and something I recommend trying.
A friend recommended the lovely Debbie at Mystical Harmony HT in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire who works from her home. Debbie offers a range of treatments from Reiki and Crystal Healing, to Indian head massages and even past-life regression. Crystal healing however, focuses on unblocking your seven chakras and is an extremely relaxing treatment. It’s understandably not for everyone, but I can always feel the treatment working throughout, and feel very relaxed afterwards for days on end. You can view Debbie’s page here.
You could say this falls under a pamper treatment as it’s foot massage, but for me I book this in addition to a pamper treatment as I’ve found it the most beneficial. I was recommended this by a colleague to help with my stress and anxiety. I usually hate my feet being touched, but this is actually incredibly relaxing and you learn so much about your body too.
It’s okay to say “no”. If you don’t have the time or know something could cause you unnecessary stress, it’s okay to tell someone “no”. You have to look after yourself, and others will respect that too. If someone has a problem with it, that’s on them, not you.
Get yourself moving and you’ll soon feel the benefits. If I’m feeling stressed, a walk or some yoga does absolute wonders for me. Exercise doesn’t always mean you have to get out of breath and get your heart racing; although that’s also beneficial, there are other forms of exercise that are good for quick wins.
I initially started doing yoga to help with chest heaviness, which is one of the key symptoms of my anxiety. One day when home alone, my chest was feeling more tense than usual, so I searched for exercises that help reduce the sensation. This video popped up which targeted this sensation through yoga and the relief I felt after was amazing. Any time I get this sensation now, this is my go-to video. For me, it almost eliminates the sensation altogether, it’s great. Tai Chi is also a really great, slow moving exercise which focuses a lot on your breathing too.
Get a good night’s sleep
Lack of sleep is a sure way to increase stress. You’ll feel stressed throughout the night, but also throughout the next day too. Understandably, stress can cause lack of sleep, but by trying some of the tips above, you’ll soon start to see a difference.