It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed – in fact, 75 percent of British workers say they have felt stressed at some point over the last 12 months, according to Capita’s Employee Insight Report. The problem is, when you’re juggling a busy schedule, trying to fit in a workout and barely have a moment to yourself, it’s tough to find time to relax. Here are some easy ways that you can do just that – and still get through your to do list.
If you have a minute… Fill your lungs. “Your breath is the most powerful tool that you have in beating stress, but it’s also the most under-utilised,” explains yogi Smita Joshi (karma-and-diamonds.com). “Practising breathing exercises daily will relax your muscles, calm your mind and help you feel more in the moment. It’s also excellent for inducing sleep and eliminating cravings,” says Smita. She recommends this powerful yogic technique:
1) Place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, on your soft palate. In yoga, this is called ‘Khechari Mudra’. Keep it in place throughout this practice.
2) Exhale through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
3) With your mouth closed, inhale softly through your nose for four seconds.
4) Hold your breath for seven seconds.
5) Exhale for eight seconds.
6) Inhale and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
If you have five minutes… When you’re stuck at your desk and you have a looming deadline, take a quick break and head to YouTube. Yep, turns out that our obsession with cat videos (they have over 26 million views, making them the most popular category on the site) can actually lift our mood. A study by the University of New South Wales in Australia revealed that watching this type of content boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings, as well as making you more productive.
If you have 15 minutes… Go for a quick walk. It may sound simple, but like other cardiovascular activities, it boosts endorphins, reduces stress hormones and improves both your mood and self-esteem. If that wasn’t enough, a study by the Heriot-Watt University in the UK found that taking a stroll through green space puts your brain into a meditative state, helping to dispel any frustration. Don’t have a park nearby? A quick wander around the block or your office will do the trick, as research by Iowa State University proved. Find a pal to go with you too – social support from friends and family has also been shown to lower cortisol levels and your blood pressure, as well as improve resilience against stress.
If you have 30 minutes… If you have half an hour to burn, hypnotherapist and psychologist Marisa Peer (marisapeer.com) suggests meditating or listening to a hypnosis recording. “This could either be a general relaxation hypnosis or could specifically address the source of your stress. Look up and take three deep breaths before shutting your peepers to get the most from your session.” As an added bonus, research shows that meditation can lead to greater self-control and help you stay on task, as well as improving your focus during a workout.
If you have 60 minutes… Take a Pilates class. New research by the University of Pittsburgh has shown that this practice can help to control your body’s response to physical, mental and emotional stress. Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates (bodycontrolpilates.com), recommends the starfish as one of the best tension-busting moves:
1) Start with your arms down by your sides and your palms facing your body. Breathe deeply into your lower ribcage.
2) Exhale and raise one of your arms back as if to touch the floor behind you. At the same time, slide the opposite leg away along the floor in line with your hips, keeping your pelvis stable.
3) Breathe in and hold the stretch, then exhale and return your limbs to the starting position. Repeat eight times, alternating arms and legs.