things to try when you're stressed

3 things to try when you’re feeling stressed

When we feel stressed out or anxious it can be really easy to get caught up in our thoughts.

Quite often the best thing to do is get out of our heads, and bring our focus to our bodies instead.

Here are 3 things you can try to shift the focus to your physical body to help calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

 

Move your body

Getting some physical exercise is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed.

When we move our bodies we get a rush of all sorts of feel-good hormones that makes us happier and more relaxed.  There’s also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself a bit and knowing you’re getting physically stronger.

If you can get out and exercise in the fresh air then you’ll get even more benefits.

The natural light and surroundings of your local park for example have been shown time and time again to give us a boost and lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

 

Stand still

If you’re in a situation where you can’t just go for a walk in the park or head to the gym, then try standing still instead.

Find a quiet spot where you can stand still and just focus on something.  It might be that you clench and unclench your fists, focusing on how it feels to tighten and relax your muscles.  Or you could try focusing on your feet.  Notice how they feel in the shoes you’re wearing, or how the ground feels underneath them.

When you focus fully on something like this, there’s no space for your mind to worry and you should feel less stressed.

 

Check yourself

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just a bit ‘off’ but you’re not sure why, then check in with yourself.

Are you hungry or thirsty?  It might be as simple as your body needing a glass of water to start feeling better.

It could also be that you’re tired and need a rest, or possibly actually in need of physical activity if you’ve been sat at your desk all day.

Take a bit of time and check in with your basic needs to make sure they’re being met.  If they’re not then do what you can to eat well, rehydrate and get enough sleep.

 

What do you tend to do to help yourself when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? 

Please do let me know by leaving me a comment.

 

Be more productive

Try this trick to be more productive all day

You know those days where you have a never-ending to-do list and yet you can’t seem to get going?

Those times when you get to the end of the day and know you could’ve been so much more productive, but just couldn’t quite get going.

I know I’ve had quite a few days like that, and so I love learning about different techniques and tricks to try to be more productive.

Here’s one thing you can try that just takes a few minutes, but can make a big difference to how productive you are all day.

 

First thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, do something active.

 

You could do push ups, sit ups, star jumps, or just jog on the spot.  Just move your body in some way, for at least a minute.

If you’re looking to get fit then you might want to do a longer workout, but to get a productivity boost all you need is about a minute.

 

No matter how busy your morning is, you should be able to squeeze in just one minute of physical activity.

And that short burst of exercise will be enough to get your body releasing feel-good endorphins that make you feel happier and energised.  That boost first thing in the morning will then carry through to the rest of the day, giving you the energy to make you much more productive all day long.

Starting your day with a rush of endorphins really does set you up for a better day all round.

 

The beauty of this trick is that it is so easy.

It doesn’t require much effort or time but the impact it can have on your day can be huge.  And if you commit to doing this on a daily basis then it can transform your whole lifestyle.

You don’t have to do the same thing every day.  You can mix it up as much as you like.  The key thing is to move your body, in whatever way you feel like each day.

 

On those days when you’re snug and comfy in bed, and really don’t want to get up and get active, then try Mel Robbins’ trick of counting down from 5.  When you get to 1, just get up.

Just do it.

Count down, then go, before you give your mind the chance to come up with more excuses and talk you out of it.

So, what will you do tomorrow morning to get moving and boost your productivity?

 

Try this to boost your self image

Try this little trick to boost your self-image

I think it’s probably quite safe for me to say that we all have issues with our self-image at times.

Whether you constantly feel down about yourself and the way you look, or you just have your moments when you look in the mirror and don’t completely love what you see.  We could all do with making changes and taking steps to feeling better about ourselves.

Here’s an interesting little trick for something you can try to boost your self-image.

 

Start practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in the last few years, and is becoming a more and more common thing to do.  My children even practise it at school which I think is amazing.

It’s become so popular because there are so many benefits to it.  One of these benefits is a boost in self-image.

 

If you’ve not heard of it before, mindfulness is basically about slowing things down and paying attention to all the little details of what you’re doing and what’s happening around you.

 

You can work mindfulness into your life in a few different ways.

If you have the time and distraction-free space to do it, then meditating is a great place to start.  Sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, while letting go of any thoughts that come into your head keeps you grounded in the current moment.  Which is what mindfulness is all about.

 

It’s about really being present.

Not worrying about the past or fretting about the future.

 

If you’re feeling stressed you can take a minute and clench your hands tightly into fists, and then release them.  Then do the same with your toes.  Focus all your attention on this physical act and how it feels.

This brings you back to the moment.  It grounds you in the now.

 

Mindfulness is also about noticing the world around us and really experiencing things.

It sounds silly but doing the washing up can be a mindful activity when you really notice the smell of the washing up liquid, and feel the softness of the bubbles on your skin.

A more fun way to experience this though would be during relaxing spa days where you breathe in the scents of relaxing oils, enjoy the bubbles of the hot tub and let all thoughts and worries drift away as you focus completely on the sensation of a facial or massage.

 

There are lots of benefits of practising mindfulness.

It can reduce stress and improve all sorts of mental health issues.  It helps us engage fully in activities and helps us deal with adversity.  It’s even been found to lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain and improve our sleep.

What’s really interesting though is that mindfulness has also been found to boost our self-image.

A study from 2014 that asked women to complete three weeks of self-compassion meditation training found that they “experienced significantly greater reduction in body dissatisfaction, body shame and contingent self-worth based on appearance, as well as greater gains in self-compassion and body appreciation” compared to women in a control group.

Now, this study is talking specifically about using a particular type of meditation, but all types of mindfulness have been found to result in changes to the white matter in the areas of our brains involved with self-regulation.  It impacts the brain systems that control emotion regulation and self-awareness.

All of which leads to us feeling calmer, more self-aware and better about ourselves all round.

 

Do you practice mindfulness?  There are so many benefits to all aspects of our health and well-being, it’s definitely worth trying to build it into your life.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Try doing this to calm your nerves

Try this one little trick to calm your nerves

If you’re the type of person who feels nervous in different situations (which is probably most people to be fair) then chances are you’ve quite a few ideas for ways to calm your nerves.

You’ve probably given calming breaths a go.  Maybe done a bit of visualisation or repeated some calming mantras to yourself.

You might even have tried a few power poses to put yourself in a positive, more powerful state of mind.

But I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of this little trick before.

Try this one little trick to calm your nerves

 

Before you head into the situation that is making you feel nervous, try chewing some gum.

 

It’s really simple, but that’s possibly why it works.

See our brains, as amazing as they are, are pretty lazy at times.  They look for shortcuts and often work on habits and routine to make decisions on how we react to things.

As a general rule if we were under any kind of threat, we wouldn’t take the time to sit and eat something.

So eating, or simply chewing some gum, tricks our brains into thinking that everything is fine and that we’re relaxed, comfortable and not under threat at all.

Basically, our brains tell us that because we’re chewing gum, we’re not nervous or scared.  Because if we were nervous or scared, we wouldn’t be doing something like chewing gum.

 

I know this sounds a bit silly really, tricking our own brains by doing something we believe we wouldn’t be doing if we were nervous.

But when you look at the psychology of it, it does make sense.

When our thoughts and our actions don’t match up we experience cognitive dissonance.  We feel a sort of mental discomfort and need to change either our thoughts/beliefs or our actions to feel better again.

In this situation it seems to happen without us really realising.

Our brains catch us chewing gum and this doesn’t fit with how we normally act if we’re nervous.  So rather than making us experience this cognitive dissonance, it decides for us that we must not be nervous if we’re chewing.

 

It has to be worth a try doesn’t it!

Try this trick to feel happier

Try this one little trick to feel happier

Do you ever have those days where nothing’s really wrong but you just feel a bit down?

Those days where you sort of mope around and just generally feel a bit ‘meh’.

On those kinds of days there is something really simple that you can do to make yourself feel happier.  It might sound a bit backwards but, thanks to a funny bit of psychology, it really does work.

Try this one little trick to feel happier

 

All you have to do is smile.

Even if you really don’t feel like it.  Just start smiling.

The physical act of smiling tricks our brains into thinking that we’re happy.  Our brain reasons that if we’re smiling we must be happy.  Otherwise why would we be smiling?

 

This all happens subconsciously and is mostly down to good old cognitive dissonance, which I mentioned recently in a post about winning people over.

If you’ve not head of it before, cognitive dissonance is basically where we feel uneasy when our thoughts are inconsistent with our behaviour.  So if we feel sad but we’re smiling, it’s a bit jarring on a subconscious level.

Our brains decide that if we’re smiling, we must actually be happy, so we then start to genuinely feel that way.

 

When we smile, even if it’s fake to start with, our brains release lovely feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin which all help to make us feel happier and less stressed.  So then we smile more and this wonderful happy cycle begins.

 

Next time you’re having ‘one of those days’, try putting a big fake smile on your face and see if it helps.

If you want to you can go one step further and find something that will put a genuine smile on your face.  Watch an old episode of Friends (or the bloopers on YouTube, they always crack me up).  Phone a friend who you always end up giggling with.  Do something, anything, that gets a smile on your face and see how your day turns around.

try this to win people over

Try this little trick to win people over

I’m sure we’ve all had them at one point or another.  Those people in our lives who don’t actively dislike us but who we just get the feeling aren’t too keen on us.  For whatever reason they just don’t seem to have warmed to us or, almost worse in a way, are just a bit indifferent to us.

It might be a work colleague, a family member, someone in your partner’s family or friendship group, anyone.

Sometimes you can just brush it off, not worry about them and get on with your life.

Other times though, it would make life much easier if you could win this person over and get them to like you.  If you’ve got someone in your life at the moment who fits in that second category then keep reading for a little trick that might help.

 

Try asking them for a small favour.

 

Think really small.  So if it’s a work colleague, ask them if you can borrow their pen quickly.  If it’s another parent at the school gate, ask if they can hold something for you while you sort something out for your child.

You want to make it such a small favour that they can’t really say ‘no’ to it.

This also tends to work best if you actually say the words, “can you do me a quick favour?” and then make your request.

 

What you’ll most likely find is that they’ll do this one small favour for you and then, thanks to a little thing called cognitive dissonance, they’ll convince themselves that you’re not too bad after all.

It’s all down to the fact that we don’t like it when our feelings and our actions don’t match up.  We feel really uncomfortable if we do a favour for someone we think we don’t like.  So to stop this niggling feeling, we need to either change our actions or our feelings.

When we’ve already done a favour for someone, because it was so small we couldn’t really say no, then we end up deciding we like the person after all to stop these feelings of conflict.

 

This is also known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect.

Apparently Franklin once won over a rival after asking if he could borrow a book of his, then returning it with a kind note of thanks.  The next time they saw each other the rival was much more civil towards him, helped him out and the two men ended up being friends.

Franklin himself wrote, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged”.

This theory has been proved in various studies since.

We are more likely to end up liking someone, and helping them out in the future, if we do them a small favour, than if they do us a favour.

 

So next time you want to win over someone who you think is unsure about you, try asking them for a small favour.

Ask the mum at playgroup who seems a bit standoffish if she can watch your cup of tea while you change your baby.

Ask you colleague if they can forward the minutes from a meeting to you.

Ask your mother-in-law if she can give you the recipe for a meal she made.

 

Whoever it is you want to win over, think of a little favour you can ask of them, and then see if it helps to change the way they think about you and act towards you.  You should find that they act more warmly towards you next time you see them (especially if you greet them with a subtle eyebrow-flash!).

Try this to help get to sleep

Try this one little trick when you can’t get to sleep

Do you ever have those nights when you just can’t seem to fall asleep?

You toss and turn, flip your pillow, try all sorts of sleeping positions but still can’t seem to drift off.  If this sounds familiar there might be something you can try, that sounds a bit silly but has shown in various studies to be effective in helping people get to sleep.

 

Try sticking one foot out from underneath the covers.

 

See I told you it sounds a bit silly, and almost too simple to work, but there is some pretty solid science behind this little trick.

It all comes down to the fact that we sleep better when we’re cooler.

Our body temperature naturally falls by a degree or two before we go to sleep, and then falls again while we’re sleeping.  This decrease in temperature acts as a sort of prompt for other systems in our body to fire up and prepare us for sleep.

So when we’re too warm, possibly from snuggling down under the duvet, we find it harder to get to sleep.

It’s a delicate balance though, so often kicking the entire duvet off makes us feel too cold, but we’re a bit too warm with it completely covering us.  Sticking just one foot out of the covers seems to be enough to help reduce our body temperature the right amount to encourage sleep.

 

The theory is that sticking out a foot is more effective than just pulling the covers down a bit because our feet lose heat more quickly.

This is because our feet contain blood vessels called the arteriovenous anastomoses which dilate when we’re warm, which lets more blood reach the skin to cool us down.   So our feet are designed to lose heat and help cool us down, in a way that the main part of our bodies isn’t.  If we pull the covers down to expose our torsos we wouldn’t get the same effect, and if you’re anything like me it would feel even harder to get to sleep with out the comfort and weight of a duvet or a blanket.

 

So, next time you’re lying in bed struggling to get to sleep, try sticking a foot out from under the covers. 

It may just help you drift off.