There’s no doubt that 2020 and 2021 have been stressful years, with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting almost every sphere of our lives, including at home and at work. In fact, according to a report by Human Resource Executive, which references findings from a recent survey by mental health provider, Ginger, nearly 7 in 10 employees claim Covid-19 has been the most stressful time of their professional career—even more than major events like 9/11 and the 2008 Great Recession. Employers have also felt the effects of the pandemic, with many having to retrench staff, downsize or even shut their doors.
This has caused a major increase in the number of prescription anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
I can agree, that as an entrepreneur and business owner, the past 2 years have certainly been about navigating uncharted waters and keeping my head above water!
When it comes to parenting and managing the health and safety of children in this time, it’s no surprise that the American Psychological Association reports that nearly half of parents of children under 18 say their stress levels related to the pandemic are high. As a mom and step-mom of three beautiful girls, this stress is definitely something I’ve felt.
Also, thanks to extensive lockdown regulations, we’ve all had to manage work, home-schooling and house chores simultaneously, which has been nothing short of exhausting!
How to de-stress in a stressful time
The truth is, no matter what life throws at you, it’s really important for your emotional, mental and physical well-being to focus on de-stressing techniques to help bring a sense of peace, calm and order to your day.
Sometimes stress can be positive. When it’s short-lived, stress can increase alertness and improve performance. This is because stress hormones trigger the body’s flight-or-fight response, which optimises your response to a dangerous situation.
However, when it goes on and on, stress can wreak havoc with your body and affect everything including:
- Your mood
- Sleep quality
- Your heart
- Your digestive system
Because stress is inevitable, stress management (and incorporating plenty of
de-stress techniques) into your day-to-day life is key.
Here are a few tips and techniques to de-stress naturally:
Practice positive thinking and gratitude
One of the best de-stressing techniques is to take things as they come and laugh more. When things go wrong, it’s not always the end of the world. It’s good to have a sense of humour about it. Laughing lowers stress hormone levels and reduces inflammation in the body.
Accept that there are things you can’t control, and that you’re trying your best. Try to approach everything with a positive, proactive attitude.
If I’m having a bad day or I’m not feeling my best, I’m honest with myself and don’t deny my emotions. On bad days, I try to give myself some grace and only focus on the most important things on my to-do list. If I’m not feeling myself, I don’t push myself too hard.
I’ve also been practicing gratitude for the last decade. I find that it really helps to ease any anxiety and stress.
On a Monday morning, I list 36 things I’m grateful for in my life. Then I write a list of things I’m grateful for in advance. These are the things I’m hoping to be grateful for in a few weeks or months. This helps me to set intentions and goals that I actively affirm and work towards.
A huge inspiration for me has been the book, Rising Strong by Brené Brown. It really opened my eyes to being more sympathetic, patient, tolerant and understanding of others and myself, because at the end of the day, we’re all doing the best we can. This book really changed my perspective and inspired me to be grateful for everybody in my life by putting myself in their shoes.
I find that intolerant, judgmental or ungrateful people are generally more stressed out, always on edge and uptight. I never want to live that way or have that kind of attitude.
Gratitude helps me recognise all the positives in my life, which helps me maintain a positive attitude. Studies show that grateful people experience lower stress levels, improved mental health and a better quality of life.
Make it a habit to identify your blessings. You can do it with your family around the dinner table, or like me, keep a gratitude journal!
Take a break and do things you enjoy
When things get too hectic, it’s critical to slow down and stop for a minute. Take time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes, to unplug and relax. Try to avoid stress triggers like emails, your phone, the news and work. In this time, try to do something that you enjoy.
It’s also important to plan little things in your day to look forward to. Have a hot bath to relax your muscles, listen to your favorite music to soothe your mind, watch a movie or read your favorite book.
I love spending time with my family where we play games, bake, or watch movies. And at the end of a long day, my favorite thing to do is relax and watch a good series in bed. When I’m tired or stressed, there’s no better form of mindless entertainment. It’s the one time of day where I give myself permission to just relax and enjoy something entertaining.
Remember that balance makes perfect. It’s critical to prioritise the things you enjoy doing, just as much as your other responsibilities. The best way to cure stress is to have a bit of fun!
Having a good support structure is crucial for stress management. If you lack emotional support, reach out. Confide in a family member or reach out to your friends. You can also try to expand your network and make new friends.
If things are bothering you, talk to a friend or a trusted family member. This can help you maintain your relationships and they may also offer you sound advice, guidance or simply reassurance that can help put everything into perspective.
Physical touch is the simplest form of stress relief, so hug those you love. Hugging releases oxytocin, “the cuddle hormone”, associated with happiness, lower blood pressure and lower stress levels. The best part about hugging is that it’s good for both people.
Meditate, be mindful and breathe
Meditation is one of the most widely recommended stress management and mental health techniques for a reason – it works! This practice of inward-focused thought has been shown to lower your heart rate and blood pressure and improve cognitive performance. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can reap these benefits.
While there are many ways to meditate, try this simple technique to help you relax in minutes:
- Find a comfortable, quiet place
- Close your eyes
- Relax your muscles
- Focus on your breathing
- Avoid distractions or intrusive thoughts
Deep breathing is also an effective way to reduce stress. The key is to breathe deeply and slowly, concentrating on feeling the air in your lungs, chest and belly. Deep breathing oxygenates your blood, centers your body and clears your mind.
Mindfulness is another popular stress management technique that involves focusing on the present moment. Practicing mindfulness helps you to relate differently to experiences. It can reduce stress levels, anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration and low mood.
While I love to meditate and practice deep breathing – I do struggle a little with mindfulness. In my opinion, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it a lot harder to be mindful because everything is much more technology-driven. I’m always worrying about cameras, uploads and WhatsApp messages and things always need to be sent, transferred or edited. I feel like my life is full of screens now more than ever before!
Rebounding has been my saving grace in terms of being mindful. When I go for a run, my mind runs away with to-do’s, but when I spend time rebounding or give a bounti class, I’m present in the moment and don’t think about anything else.
If I’m distracted, I’ll miss a move, mess up the routine or fall off my rebounder, so it forces me to be in the moment fully. I can’t think about my kids, my to-do list or anything but the beat, my body and the rhythm. It’s the only time where I’m not in my head, and I’m having fun! It’s such a healthy outlet for me. I’m definitely working on finding more ways to be mindful. It’s a skill that I really would like to master.
Move your body more
One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety naturally, is to exercise. In fact, studies have proven that regular exercise helps to alleviate symptoms of clinical depression.
For me, exercise takes the edge off, and helps me feel balanced and calm. As I previously mentioned, rebounding is one of my favourite de-stress activities, and it also happens to build my strength and fitness!
There’s no doubt that daily exercise boosts endorphins and reduces stress. A simple walk and some fresh air also does wonders for the mind and body, as does hiking outdoors in nature.
My family and I have been going on regular weekend hikes and we find that it’s a great way to cure the lockdown blues, as well as the general stress associated with the pandemic. Spending just a few minutes outdoors also helps to boost vitamin D levels, which is essential for mood and immunity.
Take care of your body
Self-care is the best medicine to de-stress. I love a good massage, lie in, or at-home pamper session where I do my nails and put on a soothing face mask.
It’s also wise to focus on what goes into your body and eat healthily 80% of the time. Unhealthy foods can perpetuate stress, and even be a symptom of psychological problems, like emotional eating.
In fact, stress is one of the most common triggers of emotional eating. Protect your mind and body by eating a balanced diet and nourishing yourself with all the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
In addition to eating well, rest and sleep are other ways to take care of your body, especially in times of stress. This is because stress can be extremely taxing on your body, so in order to cope with it, you need the chance to rest and recover as much as possible.
While stress and anxiety can cause a host of sleep problems, there are ways to combat this. If you’re struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep follow my tips on fail-proof ways to sleep better.