Want to improve your health, increase your productivity and get people to like you more? Then the best thing to do is to spend some time doing nothing. In a society that is increasingly stressed, we really need to learn how to relax and take better care of our mental health. The problem is that many people find this difficult to do. What simple actions can you take to make it easier?
When under stress, it can be very tempting to gorge yourself on chocolate or other favorite treats. The problem is that this can be counterproductive. Eating too many sweet foods means your blood sugar levels will spike and then drop abruptly, making you feel very stressed indeed. It’s much wiser to eat foods containing long-chain carbohydrates – things like pasta, rice, bread or breakfast cereal – that will keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day. Drinking more water and eating a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals is also helpful. If you find yourself hungry between meals, citrus fruit makes a great snack. It helps to cut down on alcohol and caffeine.
Modern working practices can make it difficult to keep a healthy, regular sleep schedule, but doing so can make a big difference to your health, so it’s really worth the effort. You can nudge it in the right direction by making sure you get daylight (or artificially simulated daylight) first thing in the morning. If your curtains don’t block out enough light while you sleep, there’s a wide range of shutters you can choose from that will do the job. When the weather is cool, you can also try adjusting your thermostat so that warmth makes you sleepy late in the evening.
Just like food and sleep, exercise is a natural part of keeping your metabolism running as it should. If you’re feeling acutely stressed, hard exercise like sprinting or working out with a punch bag can effectively burn off the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is designed to trigger a flight or fight response, so by simulating that, you’re fooling your body into thinking the cause of stress is being resolved. Regular exercise will also help with your digestion and your energy levels, and when you feel fitter, you’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed by the things you have to deal with in life.
When we’re kind to other people – even just in our thoughts – our bodies release what has been called the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin. This is a great short cut to feeling good. What many people forget, though, is that we should also be kind to ourselves. Often, stressed people ask far too much of themselves and get angry with themselves in a way that they would find shocking if it were done to other people. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you, and you might be surprised by the difference it makes.
These simple actions can make a big difference to the stress levels in your life and how well you can control them. Learn to relax and everything else in life will feel easier too.