Feeling stressed? You don't have to be. Here's our expert for advice on how to reduce stress levels and take control.
Complementary therapist Christine Michele Murray specialises in helping people manage stress and stress-related illnesses. Here are her five top tips on how to manage and reduce stress.
Stress hits us all in life, and while a little stress is good – it keeps us focused and motivated – too much of it and it can grind our lives to a complete halt. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, you may become paralysed and unable to do much of anything. Studies have found that stress seems to worsen existing conditions or increase the risk of becoming ill with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, gastrointestial issues, headaches, migraine, depression and anxiety.
Although combating its effects through effective stress management can improve your health, tackling stress at the earliest sign is by far the best way to avoid illness. So learning to manage your stress is extremely important for your wellbeing.
These tips will help you manage your stress on a day-to-day basis, they are short and easily incorporated into your day. Using just one or two of these can have a major impact on how you feel by reducing your stress levels. Not everyone works in the same way either so you may find some of the techniques more effective for you than others.
Learn Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping)
Since training in this technique I have not used a painkiller. It is fantastic for physical and emotional pain and many other issues. I often used to get stress headaches, which were very debilitating, but now I can shift headaches in a matter of minutes without taking medication. This link to my YouTube channel introduces tapping points, which work on the body’s meridians and will relax you. If you are in public and feel stressed you can just do the tapping down your fingers.
1. Equal Breathing Technique (to slow your mind)
Our bodies are accustomed to the practice of shallow breathing. Keep the goal in mind: this technique can calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress and anxiety.
This is great for the beginner who wants to relax. A count of 10 breaths would be a great way to stop and rejuvenate your busy day.
- To start, inhale for a count of 4.
- Then exhale for a count of 4.
- As you advance, aim for 6 to 8 counts per breath.
Remember to breathe through your nose. This adds a natural resistance to the breath.
This is one technique that is especially effective when you catch yourself creating unlimited thoughts. In other words, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, this breath can help slow your mind and reduce racing thoughts and help you bring your focus and concentration to the present situation.
2. Be Present
Slow down!! Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behaviour with awareness. For example: notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.
When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
3. The Crescent Stretch – neck shoulders & upper back
An excellent stretching technique for stress is the crescent stretch. This stretch helps release tension from the neck, shoulders, and upper back while elongating your entire torso.
- While standing or sitting, raise your hands over your head.
- Interlock your fingers and as you exhale move your hands and arms to the right. Make sure to keep your shoulders back.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Take several deep breathes and inhale as you move your hands back over your head.
- Repeat the exercise moving your hands and arms toward the left.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
4. Diffusing Oils – at home
As a certified aromatherapist I love to use essential oils as part of my holistic treatments. I use Doterra oils as they are very pure and throughly tested. I do consider each client individually and look at any health issues and medication they may be taking before recommending specific oils for them.
Aromatherapy is a very effective natural treatment for stress because it assists the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself holistically, rather than just treating the symptom or disease.
This is obviously something that you can do easily – just turning on the diffuser. If you have any health conditions or are taking any medication, or anyone in your house has you need to be aware of any potential risks associated with diffusing oils. Below are tips for using oils safely
Using oils safely
However you choose to enjoy oils here are a few safety tips – if in doubt you should check with an aromatherapist
- Keep out of reach of children
- Do not diffuse oils around babies under 3 months old
- Never apply essential oils directly onto the skin they need to be diluted in a carrier oil
- Do not put essential oils directly into a bath
- Be aware that some oils can cause photosensitivity if you apply to the skin and go out into the sun, causing a reaction.
- Taking medication or have health problems consult an aromatherapist about what oils you should be using/are safe to use.
5. Reach out
Your social network, friends and family are one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others -preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective on what is stressing you.
Words by Christine Michele Murray
Complementary Therapies With Christine Michele Murray is based in Banstead, Surrey. Christine Michele Murray helps people manage their stress and stress-related illnesses on a 1:1 basis face to face in hour long sessions and online. She also run workshops which introduce you to various self care techniques. VIP mornings and days are also available tailored to your requirements.