While stress is natural, and sometimes beneficial, if it spills over into tossing-and-turning-at-night territory, you can bet it’s gone a little too far.
It can often creep up very slowly on you, maybe without you even noticing, and that’s why prevention is better than treatment when it comes to everyday pressures. Instead of trying to bring yourself down from a worked-up state, try topping up your personal wellbeing day by day, or even hour by hour, before you even get to that emotional place you desperately have to talk yourself out of. Here are some science backed top-up tips that will help you manage your stress before it’s even become a problem.
You know the age-old advice to “take a deep breath”? Turns out it’s founded on very solid psychological advice. This study reports that participants who followed instructional advice to “take a deep breath”, reported both physiological and psychological benefits. The study’s lead author, Elke Vleminex, explained that this proved that sighs were “psychological and physiological resetters.” It takes around 10 seconds to stop and take a single deep breath; there’s really no excuse not to do it at least once a day.
Because it can take as little as five minutes of mindfulness to shift your brain waves from a state of stress and into a place ready to foster creative thoughts and innovative ideas, keep a copy of Wellineux’s Mindful Minutes on hand for easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day, perfect for those stressed out moments you know you need to tackle but you’re just not quite sure how.
Have you considered the idea that smiling is a cause of happiness, rather than a symptom? A fascinating study by the University of Kansas found that participants who smiled (even when they were only instructed to make a facial expression similar to smiling, not told to “smile”), had greatly reduced heart rates (a indicator of stress), as opposed to those maintaining neutral expressions.
Observing “fractal” scenes – anything that has a repetitive quality to it – has a reductive effect on stress, just by looking at it.
“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment,” explains Sarah Pressman, a researcher of the University of Kansas study. “Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”
Observing “fractal” scenes – anything that has a repetitive quality to it – has a reductive effect on stress, just by looking at it. As Richard Taylor writes for the Smithsonian, lots of objects in nature have this quality: consider the branches of a tree, sprouting out and out the higher you go. Or the infinite creases on an expanse of ocean. He also cites Jackson Pollock and some of M.C Escher’s repetitive art as fractal, and therefore stress-reducing. Use your weekend as an excuse to explore art galleries and hunt for this quality in the displayed works, or take a walk in nature, which has its own restorative effects.
We all make grand plans at the beginning of the year to tackle our biggest life tasks – we also often make the mistake of trying to make them all happen at the same time. Instead, why not try adopting one new healthy habit per month? Incorporating more exercise, a better diet or even a hilarious or informative podcast could be your key to truly taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing.
EVERY THREE MONTHS
The depleting effect of being emotionally involved in the suffering of others has a name: it’s called the “cost of caring”, and it turns out that staying connected via social media can exacerbate it. This 2013 paper suggests that engaging in “increased social awareness can of course be double-edged,” as sociologist Dhiraj Murthy points out. Each quarter, check in with your social-media usage and consider taking on a weekend’s worth of digital detox – sometimes you need a break from the highs and lows of others’ lives.
Wellineux is hosting a series of wellness workshops at Collective HQ in Sydney in May. Book now.