More than one-fifth of Australians have reported their mental health is worse this year than prior to the pandemic. It is becoming increasingly important to find ways to reduce stress, especially given the continued impact the events of 2020 and 2021 have had on our lives.
Bushfires, pandemics, floods, and mouse plague aside, there are also numerous other causes of stress, from work and finances to relationships — all of which can contribute to our mental and physical wellbeing.
Stress can lead to headaches and muscle pain, as well as fatigue and low-quality sleep. It can heighten one’s risk of developing more severe health problems, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are a number of different techniques and tools you can try to decrease your stress levels naturally. Here are our four tips to reduce stress and calm your mind.
Exercise can have a calming effect on the mind because it aids in the release of endorphins — a chemical that can trigger a positive feeling in the brain. Almost any type of physical activity — from strenuous exercises, to just five minutes of low impact activity — can reduce stress and calm the mind.
When choosing an exercise, lean into an activity that you already enjoy doing, as this will motivate you to exercise more, particularly during times of stress. Whether you choose a quick walk or an hour of yoga, exercise will give you the opportunity to forget everything running through your mind and potentially change your perspective and approach to a problem or stressor.
Meditate or use a reassuring mantra
Positive self-talk can help quiet your mind, and in turn, reduce stress. A mantra or affirmation is a phrase that you repeat to yourself, in a quiet space. Each time you feel stressed, take a minute to recall your mantra. This can help you refocus on what is important, rather than what your stressed brain is telling you to focus on.
Because mantras may not work for everyone, meditation can have a similar effect. To meditate, simply find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed, close your eyes and visualise a calm, peaceful place. Focus on mindfulness and keeping your thoughts present in that moment. continue to do this until you feel calmer and more serene.
Statistics show that meditation has become a growing trend for this purpose, with nearly a third of women and a fifth of men using meditation as a way to decrease stress.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep and your mood are often closely linked and poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress. This is because your body isn’t getting the opportunity to rest and repair itself. It is important to get at least eight hours of quality sleep every night to help combat stress and promote good health.
Try using a weighted blanket to help you fall asleep, particularly if you have trouble sleeping. These blankets are designed to mimic deep tissue simulation; a technique that involves placing pressure on the body to reduce movement and produce a calming effect, relieving stress and improving sleep.
Adopt a self-care routine
Taking an hour to yourself each day might be key to relieving stress and improving your wellbeing. You could go for a walk, read a book or take a relaxing bath. Self-care differs from person to person — some people may find quiet, classical music effective in calming their mind, while others find scent can help reduce stress.
Placing essential oils, such as lavender, on your pulse points — including the back of the neck, temples and inner elbows — can have a calming effect too.