Suzanne Leyden from The WellNow Co. shares five simple tips for reducing stress.

If ever our stress levels have been pushed to the limits it's during a pandemic. We’ve been pulled in so many directions with stressors ranging hugely for people, not just in Ireland but all over the world.  And we must remember that stress is relative and can effect people in different ways.

We may have used this time as an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and how we want to live them during this time, but now is the time to think about what practical improvements we want to make to live a healthier, happier more balanced life.

What stresses you out?
Firstly, let’s step back a little to before the virus hit our shores. It’s hard, but really try. What was your life like then? What caused the most stress?

Now, looking forward as restrictions get eased and we are re-imagining our lives on a daily level but also on a broader basis too, what do you want to change? How does that look for you? How can you achieve this?  It may feel a little overwhelming, but making a plan can help.

There is one thing that is certain to exist in our future, and that is stress.  No matter what, whether it’s work, kids, lack of time, finances, family, lack of social life, we all have stress in our lives.  And the right amount of stress at the right time has its place and helps us get through challenges.  

This 'positive’ stress is known as Eustress. It’s only a problem when stress is ongoing, very often you don’t even realise that you are stressed because you have become so used to it. This ‘negative’ stress is known as Distress.  

The likely outcome when enduring chronic stress is burnout, and the likelihood of possible medical conditions related to chronic stress are increased.  These include cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes to name a few from a long list.

So, what can we do about it? Here are some top tips to managing stress.

1. Self Care
Well, first up is to give yourself the time to step back and evaluate where you are, where you want to be and what it might look like.  Then you can start figuring out how to get there. We hear ‘self-care’ being used a lot these days, but this doesn’t just mean a trip to the local spa, it’s actually caring for yourself and allowing yourself the time you need to flourish.

This may mean calling in the support troops – friends and family who can help support you in your plans and maybe watch the kids while you take this time. You would likely do it for your loved ones, so why not let them do it for you?

2. Healthy eating
Something we can really do for ourselves is to eat well.  Now, that doesn’t mean eating lettuce for the rest of your life. It means eating the best quality food in the right proportions and when you’re doing that you can afford to indulge in richer treats every now and then.

I mean, is life really gratifying without chocolate brownies in it? Another positive thing we can do for ourselves is to stay hydrated. Being even slightly dehydrated can impact mood significantly, so drink about 2 litres of water a day and more if you’re exercising or if the weather is very hot.

3. Movement and exercise
Moving your body more is always going to help. Whether it’s day-to-day general activities or incorporating structured exercise, our bodies are designed to move, and the more they move the better condition they are in - a bit like a car. Think of yourself like a miraculous car, you want to put in top quality fuel and you need to take it for a decent spin every day or it will start causing you problems.

4. Minding your mind
Human minds love to wander, and never as much as when we are stressed. Wandering minds make us unhappy. So how can we reduce our levels of mind-wandering? Something as simple as meditation can have a really positive impact on mind-wandering.  

If you’ve never tried it before, there are so many apps out there that give a good introduction to the practice. You can start with 5-10 minutes a day and work your way up. Like so many things, it takes practice. Try it every day for a week and notice the difference in how you feel.

5. Sleep
Finally, sleep. After all that good food and exercise, you can treat yourself to the recommended eight hours of quality Zzzzz’s. This can be quite a challenge when we are stressed, and when our screen time may be higher than ever, but there are ways to do this. Set boundaries for your evening screen usage.

Leave your phone charging overnight in another room. Read in bed instead of TV. These small changes can have a dramatic impact on your quality and duration of sleep, which in turn positively impacts your mood and stress levels.

You can do it
All these aspects of our lives are within our control. We need to decide how we want to live our lives and then plan it so that it happens. This can be quite a feat for busy people, but life is short, so why not have the best quality one while you’re here?

If you want to make healthy changes to your life but would like some guidance to help with your success, The WellNow Co have an online programme, ‘Relieve and Manage Stress for Life in 7 Weeks’ which is a really accessible way to improve your life.