Stress Awareness Month

Hello all,

Just before I go onto the main content of this blog I just wanted to quickly write about the terror attack that took place near the palace of Westminster on Wednesday. Unfortunately people were hurt and some lost their lives including metropolitan police officer PC Keith Palmer. This was an abhorrent action and will impact and affect the lives of many. Isis have claimed that it was part of an attack which they orchestrated.

Events such as these seek to cause hatred and mistrust which leads to divisions between people. However, from what I have seen instead of division this act has caused people to come together and there have been some extraordinary acts of kindness and bravery. This includes nurses running blankets and emergency medical supplies to the scene to MP Tobias Ellwood giving PC Palmer CPR in an attempt to save his life. My thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected and I also urge people to not turn to hate and division but rather to kindness and inclusion. We should remember the victims and commend the professionalism and bravery of front line emergency services. As with Paris and Berlin we should stand together, denounce hatred and promote inclusion and kindness.

For the rest of this post I wanted to reference Stress Awareness Month which is coming up in April. I know that I have already posted about this but I wanted to give a more up-to-date blog and give you a few more ideas on how to reduce stress particularly as exams and dissertation hand in is looming.

Listed below are simple ways to reduce and relieve stress in your everyday life

  1. Listening to music.

Quite often if you are feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation taking a break and listening to relaxing music can help. Calm music has been proven to have a positive effect on the brain and body. Playing calming music can lower blood pressure and reduce the production of cortisol which is a hormone that is commonly linked to stress. Personally, I sometimes listen to ‘The Stress Buster’ or relaxing playlist found on Spotify. I personally find listening to calm piano music very calming.

 

  1. Call a friend

When you are feeling stressed, take a break and call or speak to a friend to talk about your issues. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any kind of healthy lifestyle particularly when you are under a lot of stress. Sometimes a reassuring voice even if just for a minute can help you put everything into perspective. You know the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

 

  1. Talk yourself through the situation

Sometimes calling a friend may not be an option; they are busy, un-contactable or perhaps you are too embarrassed to talk to someone about something. If this is the case sometimes talking calmly to yourself may be the next best thing. This may seem a little ‘bananas’ but by telling yourself why you are stressed out, thinking out loud to know what you have to do to complete the immediate tasks at hand and most importantly that everything will be okay can be immensely helpful and provide an element of clarity in a stressful time.

 

  1. Eating correctly

Stress levels and a proper diet have been proven to be closely related. When we get stressed and overwhelmed we tend to forget to eat well and resort to using sugary and fatty snack or convenience foods as a comforting pick-me-up. It is difficult but try to avoid suck snacks and plan ahead. Vegetables and fruits are always good and fish or nuts with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.

 

  1. Laugh

Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy. So watching or listening to something you find funny can increase you mood. Try listening to your favourite comedian or watching sketch shows can be immensely beneficial.

6. Cold shower

This may seem bizarre but cold showers have been proven to help you sleep better, improve your immune system and to reduce stress. This works in a similar way to laughter by decreasing your levels of stress inducing hormones. A link to a good video of the benefits of cold showers is listed below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxz8QNqrzwY

My partner has recently converted to cold showers and has already seen the differences in his mood, tiredness and stress levels so why not give it a try.

 

  1. Drink tea

A single large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure which can cause your hormone producing glands to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try drinking green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine which is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system. Or at the very least try drinking de-caff in the afternoons.

 

  1. Exercise

Now this does not mean power lifting at the gym or marathon running. A short walk around the library or campus (or even the beach, it is right on the doorstep!) This can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantly. Sometimes if I am stressed and am having trouble sleeping, simply tensing muscles for 10 seconds and relaxing has an immediate calming effect on my body. DO exercise and moving does not have to be intense.

 

  1. Sleep better

Everyone is aware that stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key contributor to stress. This is a vicious cycle that causes the brain and body to become out of sync and this only gets worse over time. Be sure to get the medically recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Turn off the TV earlier, dim the lights and give yourself time to relax before bed. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN as well. This is the most effective stress buster!

 

  1. Breathe

The advice ‘take a deep breath’ may be a bit cliché but it holds true with regards to stress. This is why deep breathing is often heavily practiced as part of meditation and yoga. For a quick breathing exercise, sit up in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees; breathe in and out slowly and deeply concentrating on your lungs as they expend fully in your chest. Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and helps centre your body and helps to clear the mind.

I hope you find this helpful. Stress effects everyone at some point in different ways but I hope this post gives you an idea of ways to combat stress if you encounter it.

Thanks for reading and breathe!

Joanna Wolton

Joanna Wolton

I am a PhD student in the Centre for Innovative Ageing within the College of Human and Health Sciences. I hope this blog is insightful and gives you some tips and information about what it is like to be a student living in Swansea.

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