Five tips to help you stress less

1. Progressive muscle relaxation
The problem with stress is that it can cause you to tense certain muscles in your body without even realising it. Over time you become used to the tension and stop noticing that your muscles are tight. Sore muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders can stem from chronic tension. Try progressive muscle relaxation by focusing on slowly tensing and then relaxing your muscles, one group at a time. Start with your toes and work your way up to your neck. Doing progressive muscle relaxation regularly will increase your awareness of when you’re tensing your muscles and you will learn to let go of tension.

2. Visualisation
Sometimes it can all become too much and while you can’t physically go to your happy place, a quick mental holiday will do just fine. Think of a few scenes that represent total relaxation for you – the mountain cabin you once stayed in, the local park on a Saturday afternoon, the beach paradise you’d love to visit one day or even the comfortable sofa you like to sit on while you read. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes imagining you are there. Engage as many senses as you can by thinking about what you’d see, hear, smell, touch or taste if you were really there.

3. Deep Breathing
Breathing is an involuntary action, so we don’t pay much attention to how we breathe. However, becoming more aware of how you breathe by doing a few deep breathing exercises can produce a natural relaxation response. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and helps promote a state of calmness. Breathing techniques also assist you in focusing on your body, which can, in turn, quiet your mind.

4. Engage your senses
Engaging your senses can help you to refocus your attention and help you let go of worry. The key is to find out which sense is most helpful for you to engage with. Some people find that listening to music calms their minds, others find that looking at family photos can help to relieve their stress. Experiment with different activities that engage your senses to find out which senses work for you. It could be rubbing scented hand lotion on your hands, giving yourself a quick neck rub, eating something tasty or squeezing a stress ball.

5. Laugh!
Have you heard the saying – ‘laughter is the best medicine?’ Well, it’s actually true! Laughing stimulates circulation and soothes tension which relieves some of the physical symptoms of stress. Laughter also increases endorphins released by the brain and produces a relaxed feeling. So, to beat the stress read funny stories or look at funny memes on your phone, talk to a co-worker who you know has a good sense of humour or think about a hilarious anecdote. A willingness to laugh at yourself can also serve as a good reminder not to take life so seriously, which can do wonders for your stress level.