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7 Tips To Relieve And Prevent Stress

Written by: Justine Hebert Dinesen, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Everyone is subject to stress at various points in time-triggered both in our professional or personal lives. In Denmark, approximately 430,000 have symptoms of severe stress, and 35,000 are on stress leave every day.

Stress is a natural response to perceived “dangers.” It is an unconscious reaction that increases our physical strength to fight or escape — the classic "flight or fight" response. The sympathetic nervous system takes over, triggering the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to encourage quick action. Fat and sugar content increase in our blood, pulse and blood pressure rise, our senses are heightened, our immune system is strengthened, and our access to the intellect and reason is decreased in favor of immediate instinctual responses.

In the short term, stress is positive as it enables us to “flight or fight.” It allows us to perform on stage, gather a high level of energy to finish up a project, take a quick decision or save a child from a fast-driving car. The problem arises when stress is prolonged or chronic. That is to say, when the body’s stress response continues after a threat has passed or when the source of stress is constant. Cortisol and adrenaline hormones stay high in our bodies, putting our mental and physical health at risk. Our body starts developing physical, cognitive, or behavioral stress symptoms. We can become forgetful, disorganized, and have difficulties concentrating. We can feel exhausted, get recurrent headaches, migraines, or stomach problems, have difficulties sleeping, or lose sexual desire. We can also experience a change in appetite, an increase in our consumption of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, or feel more irritable, aggressive, or tend to withdraw into ourselves.

Warning signals only get worse, and the consequences more serious and long-lasting if ignored. So the earlier you handle your stress, the better. Here are some recommendations to reduce and prevent stress in daily life.

1. Sleep well and enough — aim for at least 7 hours a night.

Sleep is of utmost importance to function optimally and feel good. Too little sleep gives stress. The body and nervous system are recovering during sleep, and the brain is being cleansed.

To increase your chances to sleep well and enough, it is important that you:

  • Go to bed at the same time everyday.

  • Do not take a nap after 2 pm.

  • Do not drink coffee or caffeinated drink after 3 pm.

  • Do not drink alcohol after 7 pm.

  • Do not watch television or use screens an hour before going to bed

If you have difficulties falling asleep or if you wake up during the night, write down everything you think about on a piece of paper. When your thoughts are on paper, they don’t fill as much space in your brain. You can also try to relax your body and face and focus on your breathing.

2. Slow down.

When we feel stressed, we feel like running faster, but this is exactly what we should avoid. We need to get our stress hormones to drop and therefore reduce our level of activity.

  • Prioritize and delegate — only do what is absolutely necessary. It may feel like you need to get that market analysis done as well as finish off painting your garage while working full-time, but you need to only do what is absolutely necessary and delegate or postpone the rest until you feel better.

  • Disconnect — take a break from your phone. Put your phone on silent, turn off your notifications, start a social media detox and only look at your phone when absolutely needed or at fixed times. Notification alerts are known for increasing our stress levels and compromising our productivity.

  • Schedule some “do nothing” time — It can be extremely challenging when we feel stressed not to do anything, but this in turn what we need the most. Try to sit on a bench outside or lie down on your couch chilling or listening to soothing music.

  • Avoid rushing —When you are in a rush, your stress hormones rise. This is what you want to avoid when you are already stressed. Make sure to have a good time before you meet with your doctor, deliver your kids to kindergarten or meet up with a friend.

3. Practice 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.

Physical activity is a prerequisite to feeling good. It is relaxing. It clears the mind and gives a better quality of sleep. Indeed, many good hormones are released when we exercise. Endorphins help relieve pain and stress and trigger a happy feeling within our body that are accompanied by a more positive outlook on life. Serotonin boosts our mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve appetite and sleep cycles, which are often negatively affected by stress. Regular exercise also helps balance our body’s level of stress hormones, such as adrenaline.

However, it is important NOT to practice intense physical activity when feeling extremely stressed. It drastically increases the levels of adrenalin and cortisol, which are already high when suffering from chronic stress. Ultimately, it can worsen stress symptoms and lead to burnout.

Aim for moderate physical activity when you are already feeling stressed. It can be anything from going for a walk, taking a relaxing bicycle ride, having a short yoga practice (Hatha or Yin), or gardening.

4. Relax your mind.

Often when we feel stressed, our mind is agitated, we have racing thoughts, and we feel like we always need to be productive. This is our nervous system tricking us. We actually need to do the opposite in order to get our body and nervous system in balance again. A good way to slow down is to practice mental relaxation to disconnect from your invasive thoughts. If you are very stressed, you may not be able to meditate, which is perfectly normal. In that case, get rid of your thoughts by watching slow television instead.

  • Watch slow TV: travel and wildlife documentaries or gardening and cooking programs.

  • Listen to soothing music

  • Soak in a warm bath

  • Do breathing exercises

  • Practice guided meditation like Yoga Nidra, or meditate if you are already acquainted with meditation.

5. Take at least one work-free day a week.

Work is important, but so are you! Most of us are reading our work emails when we are off. It may seem innocent as we are not answering them, but it is distracting. From the moment you read your emails, you are thinking about work, and you stop being fully present. So take real time off when you are on weekends or on leave. Turn off your work emails from your phone, leave your computer in your bag, and relax. Do not feel guilty for taking real-time off. It will help you recharge your batteries, regain overview and ultimately, better endure work pressure in the long-term.

6. Plan some time to do what you enjoy and give you energy.

When you feel stressed, it is important to plan some time for yourself to do the things you like. Ideally, once a day for 15 minutes to an hour, depending on your available time. But it can also be a few times a week if this is more convenient. It will give you something to look forward to, recharge your batteries and teach you to prioritize yourself.

7. Listen to your body.

You need to learn to follow your body's needs rather than your mind's requirement to deliver and perform. Ask yourself what you feel like doing and listen to what your body is telling you. Do you feel chest pain when you think about attending that family birthday? Then, don’t do it.

It might not always be an option to do what you want to do, but it is always good to ask yourself what you would like to do in the different situations you encounter. It is a good way to learn to be in contact with yourself.

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Justine Hebert Dinesen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Justine H. Dinesen is a certified and experienced Life and Stress Coach, speaker, and wellbeing consultant. Besides conducting one-on-one coaching online and in-person in Copenhagen, over the past several years, she has held numerous workshops and courses both inside and outside of Denmark. Justine herself experienced an extreme period of stress while working as a Bid Manager for a large renewable energy company, a personal experience that ultimately led Justine down a new and highly rewarding career path, informing and helping others to prevent or alleviate stress and its symptoms and consequences in their lives. Thanks to her English, French, and Danish fluency, she can reach a wide audience across borders, helping them attain goals, shift into new career paths, navigate difficult decisions, improve their self-esteem, and generally renew their spark for life.


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