Feeling frazzled by your to-do list? Overwhelmed by your workload? These tips from Emily and Amelia Nagoski and their amazing book ‘Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle’ could be just what you need to stay on top of your stress levels. Here’s a little extract
1. Get your booty moving
When you’re being chased by a lion, what do you do? You run. Physical activity is what tells your brain you have successfully survived the stress threat and now your body is a safe place to live. So, physical activity is the single most efficient strategy for completing the stress response cycle. When you’re feeling stressed out by the bureaucracy and hassle of living in the 21st century, what should you do? Run. Or swim. Or dance around your living room, singing along to Beyoncé, or sweat it out in a Zumba class, or do literally anything that moves your body enough to get you breathing deeply. Between 20 and 60 minutes a day does it for most folks. And you should do this most days – after all, you experience stress most days. [Remember folks – those brilliant Jennis circuits are just 29 mins or less!]
2. Breathe deeply and slowly
Deep, slow breaths down-regulate the stress response – especially when the exhalation is long and slow and goes all the way to the end of the breath, so that your belly contracts. A simple practical exercise is to breathe in to a slow count of five, hold that breath for five, then exhale for a slow count of 10 and pause for another count of five. Do that three times.
3. Laugh more
When we laugh, says neuroscientist Sophie Scott, we use ‘an ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds and regulate emotions’. Laughing together – or simply reminiscing about the times we’ve laughed together – increases relationship satisfaction. This doesn’t mean social or ‘posed’ laughter – it means belly laughs: deep, impolite, helpless laughter. So really go for it!
4. Have a hug
When you’re too stressed out for laughter, deeper connection with a loving presence is called for. Most often, this should come from someone who likes, respects and trusts you, and whom you like, respect and trust. Try maintaining a hug for 20 seconds. Stroking a pet can help too – for example, petting your cat for several minutes can lower your blood pressure.
5. Let yourself have a good cry
Anyone who says, ‘Crying doesn’t solve anything’ doesn’t know the difference between dealing with the stress and dealing with the situation that caused the stress. It’s important to cry in order to feel relief from the weight of whatever made you cry. You may not change the situation that caused the stress, but you completed the stress cycle.
6. Find some positive social interaction
Casual but friendly social interaction is the first external sign that the world is a safe place. So reassure your brain that the world is a safe, sane place by having a polite, casual chat with your work colleagues, chatting to the barista when you buy a cup of coffee, or complimenting the lunch server on their choice of shirt.
7. Don’t ignore your stress
One thing we know for sure doesn’t work when it comes to stress: just telling yourself that everything is okay now. What’s clear is you have to do something to manage your stress, whether it’s deep breathing, doing a HIIT workout to loud music or watching a tearjerker movie to start you off on a big ol’ cry. You’ll probably find that different strategies work better on different days, and sometimes the strategy that works best isn’t practical day to day, so make sure you also have a back-up strategy.