Seven Key Steps to Reduce Stress

Often it's not that we don't know what to do, it's just that we don't get round to doing it.

We've put together 8 key steps to help reduce stress levels and improve your mental health and wellbeing.

When it comes to stress and stress relief, most of the time it's not that we don't know what to do, it's just that we don't get round to doing it. Try to pick two or three of these tips (or try them all) and hopefully they'll help make a difference to your life and stress levels.

1. Sleep Sleep Sleep! - It's the single most impactful thing you can possibly do for yourself to improve your general wellbeing and your ability to cope and manage stress. A full eight hours of sober sleep with no phones, in a dark room, at an ambient temperature will be a game changer. 

2. Cut Down the Booze - When the going gets tough, it's easy to go from a light or moderate drinker to somewhere on the wrong side of the grey-zone where you self-soothe/medicate with a glass (or three) every night. But rather than reducing stress, becoming alcohol-dependent or reliant or just drinking too much too often, will reduce your sleep quality and consequently your ability to manage stress levels. For more information on reducing your alcohol intake take a look at our blog.

3. Reduce Caffeine and Sugar - There's no denying we live in a coffee culture - with a coffee shop on almost every corner and many of us with our own coffee machines at home. Sugary or energy drinks are another part of that. But like alcohol, caffeine and sugars don't help us manage stress and they can actually cause the release of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. If you can't do without your caffeine-fix, try cutting your intake and reduce the amount you consume from around mid-afternoon. Try herbal, fruit or green teas instead. 

4. Diet - The classic expression 'food is fuel' is true, but bearing with that analogy, if you put junk into your engine, you can't expect optimal performance. Eating some key foods can have a huge impact on helping your body and mind to manage stress. A lot of the usual suspects are on the list - but this is a good base to work from:

  • Brassicas & green leafy veg that are rich in fibre
  • Omega-3 rich avocados
  • Citrus fruits and strawberries - full of anxiety-reducing Vitamin C
  • Nuts and seeds, from chia to pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, the Vitamin B is key
  • Wholegrains and unrefined carbohydrates like sweet potatoes
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout (if you don't like fish some eggs and milk are also rich in omega-3)
  • Probiotics can help boost your immune system and gut health, which in turn helps improve anxiety and fight off depression
  • And last, but very definitely not least, anti-oxidant-rich dark chocolate

5. Exercise - We all know its importance, but too often it gets pushed down the priority list and we don't make time for it, while somehow there's always time for that extra Netflix episode. The adrenaline created by exercise is key to improving mood and managing stress especially if you work remotely. 

6. Mental Health Activities - There are many types of mental health activities that are known to help with managing stress and wellbeing. These include journalling, meditation, positive affirmations, and intention setting, breathwork, regular attendance of [insert hobby here] classes, and more. Making time for activities that help you to protect your peace and wellbeing can be extremely powerful and helpful when particularly stressful periods come knocking. 

7. Fresh Air - the benefits of nature are well-documented so try to get out each day. The days are slowly getting longer and warmer, so it's a good time to create a new routine that includes a morning or lunchtime walk. Even if it's just a short break to see the sky - this should reduce stress levels and be great for your overall mental wellbeing. 

8. Ask for help! - Life is complicated and it's even harder to manage its ups and downs alone. Create a network of support with friends, family or colleagues who you trust and feel able to call on when it most matters. Sometimes, asking for help is actually the bravest thing you can do, so don't be afraid - it's a sign of strength, not weakness. 

And do remember, learning to manage stress is a skill, it takes practice and often needs to be actively considered with mechanisms put into your life so you can unlearn your stress triggers and develop the ability to manage stress better. 

Be kind to yourself and recognise that it is normal to feel stressed by all the things that life throws our way in the way. There will undoubtedly be peaks and troughs when it comes to daily stressors and having a few fundamental self-care measures in your back pocket can be your best ally. Following these fundamental ways to improve your coping skills will hopefully help you get through.