LIFESTYLE

How To Combat Stress With 6 Simple Activities, From Exercise To Meditation

Stress doesn't have to be an inevitable part of life.

13/06/2016 17:11 | Updated 09 November 2016

Whether it’s concern over politics, work, our finances, or family, none of us are immune to feeling stressed.

According to the NHS, stress is defined as “the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure”.

If it isn’t addressed, stress can “cause serious illness” and lead to us adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking. 

But thankfully, there are tons of activities we can all do to lower our stress levels. Read about six of our favourites below: 

Gardening 

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A 2013 study suggested that gardening can help improve our mood and even help to combat stress, anxiety and depression.

It found that 80% of gardeners feel satisfied with their lives compared with 67% for non-gardeners, and 93% of gardeners think gardening improves their mood.

Commenting on the study at the time, Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, chief medical officer for Bupa, told The Huffington Post UK: “There’s no doubt that being outside in the fresh air, being in touch with nature, feeling the seasons and watching plants grow and flower can do your mental wellbeing wonders.

"Doctors prescribe gym referrals; why not allotment referrals? Not only can gardening boost mental health, a good stint of digging and wedding is also great exercise."

Colouring

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Last year, more than three million adult colouring books were sold in the UK and a lot of people credit colouring as helping them manage stress and anxiety.  

Previously speaking to HuffPost UK, Tiddy Rowan, author of Colour Yourself Calm, said: “Sometimes when you’re trying to remember a fact but you can’t think of the answer, it will only come to you later when you’re doing something else entirely. Colouring can help us to experience clarity of the mind more easily."

Richard Merritt, co-illustrator of The Creative Therapy Colouring Book, added: "When you’re colouring, you’re not really thinking about anything else. In that moment - when you’re sitting down with a traditional piece of paper and some pens, no apps, no noise - you almost go back to being a kid again. Colouring provides a bit of escapism."

 

Exercising 

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According to Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen of the Yale Stress Centre, exercise in a fantastic way to improve your mood.

He told HuffPost Healthy Living that raising one’s heart rate can actually reverse damage to the brain caused by stressful events.

“Stress atrophies the brain — especially the hippocampus, which is responsible for a lot, but memory in particular. When you’re stressed, you forget things," he said.

By contrast, exercise promotes production of neurohormones like norepinephrine that are associated with improved cognitive function, elevated mood and learning, he said.

According to the NHS, some scientists also think that exercise has the potential to improve wellbeing because it brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge. 

Volunteering 

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Volunteering in your community not only helps others but it can also improve your own mental wellbeing and help to combat stress.

"Giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, creating positive feelings," the NHS website explains.

"Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.

"Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones. Relationships with others also help mental wellbeing."

Meditating 

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Toby Maguire, the stress management trainer at The Body Holiday, St Lucia, believes meditation is one of the best ways to calm a troubled mind.

"Meditation is a powerful tool in dealing with stress as it allows an individual to detach themselves from their thoughts and emotions and see things in a much clearer perspective," he previously said in a HuffPost UK blog.

"It can also be used to increase confidence, improve personal relationships, improve concentration and creativity and increase one’s self-discipline and determination to reach personal goals."

Taking A Break

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Numerous studies have shown that stepping away from your desk at lunchtime is a sure fire way to reduce stress, yet workers in the UK take the shortest lunch breaks in Europe.

"The truth is, you need regular breaks in order to be more productive and happy," Dr Angela Smith blogged on HuffPost UK.

"You need to slow down to speed up - stepping away from your work will result in less stress and more achievement.

"Taking a 20 minute walk outside will make you feel happier as the endorphins get released into your body, and a happier worker can concentrate more, getting less irritated with other people (and technology!)." 

Check out the slideshow below for more quick tips on how to reduce stress or visit your GP for more in-depth advice.

100 Ways To De-Stress

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