This article appeared in My Weekly Special. Prolonged stress has significant health problems, such as; high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and heart problems.  What steps can you take to reduce your stress levels?

  1. Keep hydrated

This is really important.  Drinking plenty of water will reduce the stress hormone cortisol.  Too much cortisol leads to high blood pressure.  Drinking lots of water also increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and increases your energy levels.  That way you will be able to deal with any problems easier.   

  1. Breathe

Well, obviously you may say.  However, if you are simply breathing through your chest, you are restricting the ability of the lungs to extend downwards and therefore reducing the amount of oxygen reaching your lower lungs.  Breathing through your diaphragm, you draw oxygen into your lower lungs, which slows breathing and reduces tension.  

  1. Exercise

A great way to manage stress is to exercise.  Burning off calories will reduce stress hormones and improve your fitness.  Being physically fit will improve your lung capacity, increases endorphin production, improve blood flow, and lowers blood pressure.  All of which improves your ability to manage stress.

  1. Get into Nature

There is a large amount of evidence that getting into nature is very beneficial for mental, emotional and physical health.  Breathing in fresh clean area surrounded by trees will lower your blood pressure and help you feel calmer.  If you have the opportunity, look for volunteering opportunities where you can spend time in nature.

  1. Eat Well  

Having a healthy diet will help you stay calmer.  Always make sure you have breakfast and aim to have three meals a day.  Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables gives you the vitamin C to help your immune system function more efficiently.  Limit the amount of sugary and salty foods as they tend to lead to stress mood swings.  

  1. Make Time

Make sure you make time for yourself and take time away from stressful activities.  Make time for a social life and hobbies.  Catch up with friends and family.  If you are feeling stressed.  Take some time out and go for a walk, or read the paper in a local café.  The idea is to give the brain a complete change of focus. This gives your mind a short rest.  

  1. Get a Good night’s Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep will help you feel calmer.  When you sleep, your body is working to maintain your physical health and support healthy brain function.  Make sure your sleeping environment is right for you and have a relaxing night time routine with no caffeine.  If you are stressed about something, write it down on a piece of paper and forget about it until the morning.

  1. Meditation

Meditation helps you feel calmer by focussing your attention away from thoughts that might be causing you stress.  Join a local meditation class or download a meditation app, or buy a mediation CD.  There are other activities, such as yoga and tai chi which incorporate meditation.  Choose which suit you best and make it part of your life.

  1. Stop Smoking

Many smokers believe that having a cigarette will calm them down in stressful situations.  The opposite is true.  The chemicals found in cigarettes will give you an adrenalin rush.  Smoking starves your lungs, heart and brain of oxygen. Find a qualified Hypnotherapist who will help you to become a non-smoker and reap the benefits of being calmer.

  1. The Calm Technique  

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Breathe slowly and calmly, feel your stomach muscles start to relax.  Take a deep breath in and push out your stomach muscles. Hold for three seconds.  Slowly expel the air through your mouth and say to yourself the word calm. Repeat this twice, again saying the word calm. After these three deep breaths, just allow the word calm to flow around your mind.