Fed up of feeling anxious and stressed all the time? We’ve asked the experts for their tips…
We all know that stress isn’t good for us. We’ve seen the research that links it to numerous health issues and we’ve tried to feel more relaxed at work and not worry excessively about issues at home. But what happens if, despite all our best intentions, we still can’t let go of those anxious feelings?
“Stress can have devastating long-term consequences for our health,” says Suzy Glaskie, a functional medicine certified health coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness (peppermintwellness.co.uk). “In fact, the World Health Organisation has classed stress as ‘the health epidemic of the twentyfirst century’. That’s not surprising when you stop to consider that 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress. So many of the complaints that we have come to see as ‘normal’ – such as poor digestion, low libido, anxiety and bad memory – are often caused by stress, too.”
However, there are things you can do to make a difference. “By making small, simple changes to our lifestyle – such as eating nourishing foods, prioritising going to bed early, making time to stretch and taking a few mindful breaths, or writing down things we’re grateful for – we can significantly boost our emotional resilience,” Suzy explains. And there are also simple techniques we can use to limit anxiety when it rears its ugly head – from visualisation and meditation techniques to acupressure and ayurvedic herbs.
To help you feel more zen, we’ve asked a range of experts for their advice on how you can reduce stress at the very point you feel the emotion taking over. So, here you have it, their stress-less toolkit…
For Dr Attilio, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist (attiliodalberto.com), acupressure can be really useful when trying to reduce your stress levels. He recommends massaging the following points in a gentle, circular motion when you feel anxious:
Baihui (GV20) – This point lies at the top of your head and is a strong calming point that’s used a lot in acupuncture. To find this point, take your finger from the top of your ear up over your skull until it reaches the top your head. You should find a small depression there.
Wangu (GB12) – This point is just behind the ear and is good at calming the mind and spirit. To find it, take your finger from the back of the ear and move your finger over the ridge behind the ear towards the back of your head. Your finger will fall into a depression after the ridge.
Jiangjing (GB21) – This lies at the highest point of the trapezius muscle, in the middle of the shoulder and is where we store our stresses. You or your partner should be able to locate it easily as it’s often tender or a hard point, mid-way between the spine and the shoulder joint.
According to ayurvedic medicine practitioner Sonja Shah-Williams (anala.co.uk), a brilliant herb to help with stress is ashwagandha. “Also known as withania somnifera, or winter cherry, this has been widely researched and is known in ayurvedic medicine to be a great stress reducing herb,” she says. “Ashwagandha revitalises the nervous system, relieves insomnia and is actually a naturally mild sedative.”
“One of my favourite stress-relieving tips is to keep a bottle of orange essential oil in your bag,” Suzy says. “Any time you start to feel anxious, take a few deep inhalations of that beautiful, citrusy scent. Orange oil has been proven to be uplifting and tranquilising – according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies of Medicine, as little as five minutes of exposure to diffused orange oil can alter mood and boost motivation, relaxation and clarity.”
As Sonja explains, in ayurvedic teachings, stress is usually attributed to an imbalance of the vata dosha, and one way to reduce vata is through self massage. “Self massage has been a key component of ayurvedic medicine for millennia and it’s especially important to practice self massage in the winter months, when the vata dosha is dominant,” she explains. “Take a small amount of warmed sesame oil and rub well into the skin starting from the neck, shoulders and chest and working down the arms, abdomen, buttocks, legs and finally the feet. Leave the soles of the feet until after your shower, as you could slip. Make sure you rub it in well, and sit for a few minutes before showering.”
For wellness expert and yoga teacher Juliet Lundholm (yogawithjuliet.co.uk), restorative yoga is a great way to reduce stress. “In restorative yoga each pose can be held for anything between five to 15 minutes which truly gives time for the muscles to relax and open, the heart rate to lower, the mind to begin to slow down, and then for the healing and rejuvenation systems to reactivate,” she says. Juliet recommends trying the Viparita Karani pose (also known as legs up the wall). “Benefits of this pose include relieving tired feet and legs, improving blood circulation, and calming the mind by reversing the blood flow,” she adds.
Have you heard of Emotional Freedom Technique? Known as EFT, or tapping, it’s an easy-to-learn acupressure method that many complementary therapists use as a way to introduce calm quickly. Suzy says: “To give yourself a simple EFT treatment, use your index and middle fingers to gently tap each of the following spots for about three seconds: the side of the hand (like a karate chop), the beginning of the eyebrow nearest the nose, the side of eye outside the outer corner of the eye socket, under the eye above the cheekbone, under the nose, under the lower lip, under the collarbone and under the armpit on the side of the body.”
We often reach for a cup of tea when we feel on edge, but rather than choosing a caffeinated option, try one of the below TCMbased teas, as recommended by Dr Attilio…
Chrysanthemum (ju hua) tea: This is great for relieving stress and clearing heat in the eyes. Put a few flower heads in a cup and add hot water.
Green tea: This contains powerful antioxidants that helps clear the mind of stress, allowing for better cognitive function. Drink green tea several times a day with hot water.
Valerian tea: Known as nature’s vallium, this is good for treating anxiety and stress and aiding sleep.
According to Juliet, a simple way to take back control of your emotions is to remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. “This little insidious insert into our daily language can be the cause of a huge amount of guilt, resentment, self-loathing and stress,” Juliet explains. “Disguised as a motivator, ‘should’ does not bring with it the motivation we often assume it does, but rather it forces us very firmly out of the present moment and into a state of judgement, negativity and shame. Reframing the sentence with ‘could’ or ‘would’ implies we do have the ability to do so and gives the brain a chance to search for the solution to make it happen.”
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