Think of a stressful event – an extra demanding day at work, an argument at home, the kids driving you up the wall, a tight deadline. How do you make yourself feel better?
If you answered pouring a large glass of wine, or breaking out the chips or chocolate, chances are you’re one of the many people who reach for comfort food or drink when life gets stressful.
If you're reaching for an alcoholic drink to try to relax when you’re feeling anxious or distressed, here’s five simple, stress-reducing techniques that you could try:
Hit the pause button
When we’re stressed we can get caught up in the ways things have played out in the past or catastrophise about what the future holds. The best place to be is here, in the present, and the best way to refocus to here and now is to practise mindfulness.
Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose, fill up your abdomen, hold it for a few seconds and breathe out through your mouth. As you repeat this pattern start relaxing your tensed muscles, your clenched jaw and hunched shoulders – become aware of where you’re holding your tension and let go.
READ MORE: How to meditate: a beginner’s guide
Sweat it out
Many research studies have shown that exercise is beneficial for our mental health in a number of ways. Exercise has been found to have acute benefits on mood – think of that ‘runner’s high’ feeling we get just after we finish a workout.
It doesn’t have to be intense, sweat-inducing exercise either. Studies have reported positive effects from light and moderate intensity exercise too. Even short bouts of just 10 minutes at a time may be effective for improving mood. So, if you’re tempted to head straight to the couch with a glass in hand after a long day, try a quick lap or two of the block with your headphones and some good music to reset, or try our beginner bedtime yoga routine if you’re feeling restless before bed.
READ MORE: Managing negative thinking before bed
Take it outside
Studies on ‘green fitness’, or getting active in nature have reported that some participants experienced higher levels of vitality, pleasure and self-esteem, and lower levels of tension, depression and fatigue after exercising outdoors.1
Whether it’s a hike, swim or outdoor yoga class, enjoy some time outdoors with the added goodness of fresh air, natural light and nature. If the weather allows, pottering in the garden or riding your bike to work is also a great way to get out and about in autumn.
READ MORE: Can exercise improve your mental health?
Break it down
Feeling overwhelmed? Forget the finish line – break down the task at hand into bite size pieces and focus only on completing each step, one at a time.
READ MORE: 7 tips to boost your mental health
Flip your self-talk
When you’ve had a demanding day, it’s easy to believe negative self-talk about your abilities. Interrupt the internal barrage and focus on your strengths instead. Make a list of all the things you are good at, and all the things you are grateful for. It helps put all your stresses back into perspective.
READ MORE: How to create a gratitude ritual
Where and how can I access support?
If you are experiencing a mental health issue, a good place to start the discussion about getting help is with your GP. You can also call our Medibank Mental Health Phone Support on 1800 644 325, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for advice about any mental health or emotional concern.
If you, or someone you know, need immediate support or medical assistance, contact 000 in an emergency or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more tips and information on how to take care of your mental health, visit:
- Beyond Blue
- Black Dog Institute
- SANE Australia
- Smiling Mind