Restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus have driven stress and anxiety far above normal levels. Nearly all of us are wrangling with changes to everyday life and for many this will mean juggling home-schooling and working from home, and others still, the worry of no longer having a job to return to. All too often, taking the time to unwind and relax is so low down on this list, it simply doesn’t get done. But relaxation should be one of our top priorities. If we don’t take the time to recharge our batteries, stress and anxiety can get the better of us, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. Finding the time to relax and manage stress properly is vital to our wellbeing. Here’s how we do it…
Take time out
A little ‘me time’ is so restorative. Curl up with a good book or go for a short walk by yourself. Daily exercise can really make a difference. It will help you to vent frustration and it causes the brain to produce endorphins to cheer you up. Try to grab at least 10 minutes a day, and before you say it, yes you do. Everyone has 10 minutes.
Take time to sleep
Make sure you get enough sleep and rest to recharge your batteries. Fatigue is often a sign we need to slow down and take better care of ourselves. Early to bed, early to rise, and not sleeping in to compensate for a late night, is the best policy.
Take time to breathe
By taking fewer but deeper breaths you will optimise your oxygen intake, helping you to relax and remain calm. There are plenty of ways to breathe more deeply. One approach is the five-six-seven breathing method: breathe in through your nose for a count of five, hold for a count of six, exhale through your mouth for a slow count of seven. Repeat until you feel calm and connected. Even without trying to control your breathing, just by taking the time to focus on your breath, will automatically slow your breathing.
Take time to listen…
…to what your body might be telling you. In times of stress, certain nutrients are used in larger quantities. The B vitamins help to support the nervous system and vitamin C the adrenal glands, so increasing your supply of these should make you feel better. Food sources of vitamin B include potatoes, bananas, lentils, peppers, tempeh and beans, and vitamin C is found in most fresh fruit and veg, including broccoli, peppers, oranges and strawberries.
Take time to eat (a nutritious diet)
When we’re feeling stressed it’s all too easy just to grab something on the go, a chocolate bar or a quick snack, when really your body is crying out for the nutrients it needs to help it cope with the extra pressure. Wholegrain carbohydrates (brown bread, brown pasta) will give you long-term energy without causing sugar highs and lows, and cravings.
Take time to wind down properly
Magnesium can help you do this; it aids sleep and muscle relaxation. Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts and spinach. You should also disconnect from all devices at least an hour before bedtime.
Take time to look after your brain
Three important amino acids that may prove useful in times of stress are glutamine, taurine and theanine. Glutamine and taurine both help to support healthy levels of specific brain chemicals known to maintain feelings of calm, whereas theanine, found naturally in tea, has been shown to generate alpha brain-wave activity similar to that achieved through meditation.
Take time to break up…
… with stimulants. Caffeine contained in tea, coffee, chocolate and cola can aggravate stress, so try to avoid these. Green tea can make for a good alternative.
Finally, take time to be as kind to yourself as you would others.