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Boost Your Well-Being With These 5 Stress-Reducing Strategies

Written by: Allison Liu, 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.

 
Executive Contributor Allison Liu

I have been there. Working ridiculous hours, feeling utterly overwhelmed and exhausted, with events from the day whirring around in my mind preventing me from falling asleep. It is not fun and to be honest, my coping strategies for dealing with prolonged stress at that time were not great. Every day I was living on ready meals, eating at the same pace as my life, treating myself to cakes, biscuits and chocolate washed down with more coffee than I should have had in a day, all in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

A woman in red jacket walking.

But what I did not realise was that these coping mechanisms were just making everything worse. They were adding to the load that I was already carrying. I was completely unaware that the way I was eating was increasing my anxiety by causing repeated sugar lows that would make me eat poorly. The discomfort and lack of confidence that accompany weight gain were inevitable. I couldn’t switch off from processing the events of the day and poor sleep just made everything feel worse. Far from building resilience, I was making myself more anxious and less able to handle the challenges that came my way.


Looking back to how life was for me then, I am so relieved that this is not my experience anymore. The costs to the body and brain are too high, so if you are in this place right now then I have some great strategies to help you move from stress and anxiety to reclaiming a sense of well-being. Do not underestimate the difference that these small changes can make.


1. Nourish your brain with the right fuel


To alter the trajectory of your day, have some form of protein with every meal and snack. Protein helps to stabilise blood sugar and boosts a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which can help you to focus. If you are easily distracted, this is especially for you.


Take breakfast for example. When this first meal is high in carbs, such as a sugary cereal followed by jam and toast, it sets you up for a roller coaster ride of blood sugar highs and lows. Far from helping you to focus, this can lead to a day where you flit from one thing to the next, achieve little and get to the evening feeling exhausted.


Instead, having eggs, ham, beans or low-sugar muesli with lots of nuts and seeds are all good options. If you enjoy a smoothie first thing then you could add one tablespoon each of flaxseeds and nut butter. Then be intentional to continue to have high-quality protein as the day goes on.


2. Think before you drink


Contrary to how it might make you feel, caffeine does not provide energy. Instead, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone, cortisol, while lowering blood flow to the brain. So one of my top stress reduction tips is to leave energy drinks on the supermarket shelf and switch to decaf or water, at least some of the time.

Aside from decaf tea and coffee, there are natural caffeine-free alternatives such as rooibos and herbal teas like peppermint and camomile. Try swapping one drink to start with and then gradually increase until you only have one or two caffeinated drinks a day. Ultimately, staying well-hydrated will help you think clearly too.


3. Start the day well


If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep then one solution could lie in how you start the day. In order to reset your body’s day-night clock it is important to get outside in daylight as early as possible. Then, approximately 13 hours later, your body will start to prepare you for sleep.


As early as you can, get up, get dressed, drink a mug of warm-hot water and then go for a 20-minute walk. Not only will this help to reset your circadian rhythm but getting outside can also draw you to the present moment by focusing on the beauty around you. As you walk you can also think about what you are grateful for from the previous day and what is going to be good in the day ahead.


4. End the day well


Poor sleep makes everything feel worse so it is important to aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a night. While you are sleeping your brain is performing some critical functions, such as consolidating learning and memories, processing events from the day and even getting a wash to take away toxins and cellular debris that have accumulated during the day. If you want a good day, it starts with a good night’s sleep.


Develop an evening ritual that starts at least an hour before sleep. First, take the lights down to the minimum that you need, using lamps where possible, then switch off all electronic devices; the last thing you want at this time of day is stimulating drama, distressing news or anxiety-inducing social media. Instead, this is your time: take a relaxing bath, do some stretches, write in a journal.


5. Enjoy the stress-reducing bit in the middle


My last healthy stress management technique is to carve out some time every day to play. Doing things that are fun, creative, or make you laugh can signal to your body that it is time to rest. In fact, if you currently lack joy in your life, then spend a few moments reflecting on the last time you did something you enjoyed, purely for the fun of doing it. It could be visiting somewhere new, going dancing, doing a crossword, reading a novel from your favourite author, or being creative. Connect again with the Stress-Reducing things that bring you joy.


Given that relentless stress can lower your ability to think clearly, be creative, productive, and perform at your best, commit to taking some time out every day to play – even if it is only for 5 minutes. This is not just ‘nice-to-have’ – it is essential.


Final words of encouragement

We have all developed ways over time to cope with stress such as using caffeine to get going or stay awake, alcohol or smoking to unwind, comfort-eating to try to lift our mood but all of these only have short-term effects. In the long run, they make us feel worse and add to the stress load. If you need to reclaim the balance and a sense of joy in your life, try these strategies. They work.


For more ways to lower the stress-load, check out this article by Executive Contributor Dr. Denise L Morrison: Stressed To The Max


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Allison!

Allison Liu Brainz Magazine
 

Allison Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Allison Liu, a brain health coach and expert in helping people get their brain younger, healthier and stronger, struggled with early warning signs of memory loss in her late forties. Forgetting what she was saying in the middle of saying it, feeling increasingly irritable and struggling with panic attacks, she felt she was losing her sense of self. Adopting a science-based approach, which she uses with her clients today, she increased her own ‘brain reserve’, improving her memory, mood and relationships. She now coaches clients around the world through a personalised plan to prevent or slow down cognitive decline so they can remain present with those they love. Her mission: Staying sharp for life.


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