In recent years, being ‘overly busy’ has become more of a status symbol than a way of life, with a full and worthy lifestyle being determined by how many plates you can keep spinning at once. Inject technology into the mix and many of us now find ourselves juggling finances, families, careers and relationships 24/7.
But where does living at such a frenetic pace lead us? Often to feeling overwhelmed, burnt-out, exhausted and stressed. Stress causes adrenaline and cortisol hormones flood our system producing the ‘fight or flight response’ in which our heart rate goes up, we breathe quickly and heavily and our blood vessels compress.
While this bodily reaction was great for our cave-dwelling ancestors (the increased heart rate and pumping blood helped them leg it from dangerous predators) we are in a very different position in 2018. Although our bodies are super smart, they are unable to tell the difference between an approaching leopard and a terse 9pm email from our boss, meaning our natural stress response is triggered even when there is no looming danger.
This response can contribute to health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia.
Being overly busy doesn’t seem so trendy now eh? Well the good news is that just as we have a stress response, we also have a ‘relaxation response’ during which our breathing slows and our blood pressure decreases. We have highlighted 5 nifty tips below to help you press pause and trigger your relaxation response:
Take a break
Relaxation doesn’t have to take up lots of your time. Just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer. During working hours it’s important to take a break from your workstation even if it is only for 10 minutes engage in a conversation with a colleague or even go for a walk.
Practice mindful breathing
Get into the habit of taking 5 minutes out of your routine and focus your attention on your breath. Doing this regularly can increase your ability to reduce stress and anxiety in everyday situations.
How? The simplest method of mindful breathing is to take a deep inhale through your nostrils hold your breath, and a long exhale through your mouth. As you do this, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Step away from the tech!
Technology can be great for helping you feel connected, it is a wonderful source of information but if you’re using it a lot, especially checking work emails after office hours, it can contribute to making you feel stressed and unable to switch off. Taking a break from your devices can help you relax. Try turning your phone off for an hour, close the laptop, and step outside.
Yoga has many physical benefits, including encouraging relaxation, increasing flexibility and strength, lowering blood pressure, and toning muscles, this practice has also been shown to alleviate mental health. Meditation can also help mitigate stress by decreasing activity and focusing your mind, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.
Believe it or not, walking promotes our relaxation, any physical exercise produces natural, feel-good chemicals in your brain. It doesn’t need to be a long walk or even face paced, just 10 minutes once or twice a day makes a positive difference.