We are a nation of addicts. Technology is our drug.
Any App, snap, chat, or tap that makes our lives easier, better, or happier, we sign up for in droves.
We lust. We must. But of course.
Modern life is too stressful not to find whatever we can get our hands on to make our meetings, our shopping, and our schedules run as smoothly as possible. While we sleep, our technology is working for us. Keeping our lives on track. So, we can relax, sleep deeply and switch off.
But do we really?
According to a report by the Stress Management Society, workplace stress continues to be a serious issue. It is now the single biggest cause of sickness in the UK workforce. With over 105 million days lost to stress each year – costing UK employers £1.24billion. That’s a very big cloud over any year-end report. And the silver lining? Current statistics show that for every £1 an employer invests in reducing stress and in staff wellbeing, there is a return of £3 in improved efficiency and productivity. That’s a very little wellbeing for a whole lot of productivity.
Taking this calculation as a guide, imagine if we invested this £1 in our own wellbeing. Just think how much our own lives could improve.
It is well known that stress can interfere with our physical and emotional health. It sets off a packet of nasty chemicals that play havoc with our sleep, blood sugar, digestion, memory, weight, health and wellbeing – the list goes on. It makes sense to find ways to zap it. The good news is that there are many tried-and-tested ways to achieve this.
As a society, we are often encouraged to look for the quick fix. It’s part of the ‘there’s an app for that,’ and the ‘retail therapy’ culture we live in. Sure, holidays and handbags, or pampering and Pimm’s, can work as a quick fix, but when it comes to reducing stress in the long-term, we have to look elsewhere.
In my own life, I have had one or two extremely stressful jobs, including producing an independent feature film, running a technology startup, and being a mum! I have built a private stash of 12 top stress-reducing tips and tools that I’ve gathered over the years, that I’d like to share.
1. Sleep is top of the list.
It is well documented that stress impacts sleep. An article in The Huffington Post emphasizes the importance of sleep hygiene. Suffice to say that we need sleep, and it needs to be deep, regular, and uninterrupted. This is not always easy to achieve when we have things on our mind, or we need to get things off our chest.
Luckily, there are many different apps and programmes to help with unwinding the mind before bed to ensure sound sleep. I have a few personal favourites.
2. MindValley’s Omvana for iPhone is currently listed as the number 1 App for meditation, focus, and sleep – sign up and you get 25 free tracks. I love this one for their guided meditations.
3. I also like the Silva ‘Guided Mediation’ free app for stress relief and sleep. Their ‘Good Morning’ meditation is also good for setting up your day. I often listen to it on the move, and it still works wonders. The ‘Good Night’ relaxation exercise works a treat for those times you wake up at 3 a.m. It’s an instant sleep fix.
4. There are many other relaxation and sleep apps that offer guided sleep meditations, calming music and hypnotic sounds to help you get your sleep hygiene sorted. Most let you try samples for free. Another very popular one I dip into is called Relax Melodies. You can set a timer or an alarm on any of the large selection of sleep-inducing tracks – a very useful little addition to make sure you don’t end up nodding off on the Central Line and never arriving home.
This is one of my personal favourites for managing stress. It is well known that this works wonders. Even if it is the last thing you feel like doing when stress looms, exercise can lift your spirits, increase your energy, sharpen your focus and reduce restlessness, plus it also aids deep sleep. If you’re not already hooked on this stress-buster, look for ways where you can fit it into your day: walk to the bus stop, cycle to work or part of the way, join a class, get active at weekends or in the evenings. It is sure to change your life for the better.
6. Healthy Eating
How easy is it to reach for that chocolate bar or packet of crisps after a stressful day? How hard is it to reach for them if they are not there? Instead of buying fatty, sugar-rich foods, why not laden your fridge with some of these succulent, cheerful, healthy temptations?
Stress-busting foods are ‘must have’ alternatives to the foods that are high in salt, fat, sugar and caffeine. I am lucky to have a fab Planet Organic on my doorstep in London. Even if I’m tempted to shoot to Starbucks for a caffeine hit; I have to pass Planet Organic on the way, so it’s easy to take a right turn for my vitamin-packed stress reducing booster juice instead. Better still – make your own. The good news is that many of the top stress-busting foods are delicious and easy to grab on the go. Here are some of my favourites:
Not only are they bright, delicious and get ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ from everyone within a mile of your punnet; they are packed with antioxidants that control stress-related inflammation. Along with their vibrant colour, they seem to bring the energetic words ‘tennis’ and ‘rowing’ to the hum and chatter of lazy summer afternoons.
8. Green Tea
Quietly refreshing and elegantly rich in antioxidants, I love to shout about this restorative drink. There are many health benefits associated with green tea, so why not try it as an alternative to your usual cuppa? Your stress levels might take the hump, but your body will love you for it.
Did nature make anything more perfect than a blueberry? Succulent, beautiful and packed with stress-busting nutrients, the very word ‘stress’ wilts at the mention of the name. Many studies exist that suggest increasing our intake of foods like blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease while also promoting a healthy complexion, healthy hair, and increased energy. Who would have thought that a little berry would have so much to boast about?
10. Seeds. Flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds are made for summer salads. They are great sources of magnesium (as are leafy greens, yoghurts, nuts and fish). Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate fatigue and irritability, to fight PMS and even reduce water retention. Keeping a power-stash handy to sprinkle some goodness seems like a perfect way to top off any summer salad, or bowl of breakfast oatmeal.
11. Celery. Amazing as it is for our digestive systems, these crunchy green stalks are also known for regulating blood pressure, which is a common side effect of stress. They are juicy, refreshing and strangely, they’re also fun to share!
12. Not forgetting carrots and broccoli; both are handy, nutritious snacks to munch with hummous. Broccoli has more Vitamin C than oranges and is packed with antioxidants and stress-busting nutrients. Known as the ‘ultimate health food,’ your friendly carrot, packed with Vitamin A, not only reduces cardiovascular diseases but has anti-cancer and anti-ageing properties too.
There are many other foods that help our bodies to fight stress. Why don’t you make a list of your favourites, and add some news ones to the mix? Treat yourself by making them part of your regular shopping. You’ll start to feel the benefits immediately.
Armed with a positive attitude to life’s many challenges, these three habits of Sleep, Healthy Eating, and Exercise, provide you with a powerful recipe for taking everyday problems in your stride 24/7 and greatly reducing the stress levels in your life. If it could all be baked together (with a smidgeon of cheeky chocolate!), it would be the perfect recipe for reducing stress at work, at home and at play.
If there’s an App for that – count me in.
We’d love to hear from you if you have any stress-busting tips that have worked brilliantly for you. Share them with us and we’ll get in touch to see if you’d like to be featured in our next Q&A for PAs, so you can share your other work and lifestyle tips with our readers.
- Twelve Tried-and-Tested Tips To Reduce Stress in the Workplace and in Life - 13th July 2015
- Q&A: 14 questions with Debs Eden, PA at Opus Professional Services Group - 18th June 2015
- The Taxpayer, The Drama Lover and The Meeting Room. - 28th April 2015
- Did the earth, the sun and the moon move for you? - 20th March 2015
- What would St Patrick make of the party? - 16th March 2015
- Do you want to dream this weekend? - 13th March 2015
- The Lion, The Witch and The Meeting Room. - 9th March 2015