How to relax and beat stress: a ten point plan to improve your emotional wellbeing
JUST can’t seem to relax? Are you troubled by anxiety or stress? Don’t worry, The Cheerful Times has the perfect pick-me-up. Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is one of the world’s top sleep therapists and she is also a leading authority on how to relax. Here Dr Nerina gives her ten-point plan for emotional wellbeing and good health. It is packed with anxiety relaxation techniques and stress relaxation techniques…
Dr Nerina writes: I am going to offer you a Toolkit that consists of Nuts and Bolts tools, Basic Tools and then Power Tools. The Nuts and Bolts and Basic tools are the things we should be building into our lives regularly; they should become second nature or habit. The Power tools are the things we can do for even greater benefit – optimal emotional wellbeing.
Nuts and Bolts
Don’t forget that your emotional health is closely linked to your physical health – mens sana in corpore sano – when we take care of our physical well being, we feel better emotionally. Here are a few basics:
- Follow good nutritional habits – eat breakfast every day within 30-45 minutes of getting out of bed. This minimises adrenaline production and optimises the production of serotonin the feel-good hormone.
- Get moving! Movement stimulates the production of endorphins which stick around even after you have stopped exercising and make you feel good. Most of us don’t move enough. Even if you hate gyms or running you can make movement a part of your life- use the stairs instead of the lift, get off your train one stop earlier and walk, take breaks from your desk and stretch regularly throughout the day.
- Stay well hydrated – the human body consists of 70-80% water so we need water to keep the feel-good hormones moving around the brain and body. The early signs of dehydration include tiredness and irritability – thirst comes when we are very dehydrated. Aim to drink between 1 to 2l of water a day and check the colour of your urine – it should be pale, straw-coloured and without odour.
4. Stay in the present – fear, anxiety and worry all arise when we constantly live in the past (rumination) or future (catastrophising). These are uncertain times for many people and the only way to navigate them without fear is to regularly stop, slow down, take a deep breath, remind ourselves that right now we are fine. Develop self awareness by practising yoga or meditation. Good reads are Eckhart Tolle ‘The Power of Now’ or William Bloom’s ‘Feeling Safe’.
5. Support – build your support networks. Negative emotions can be literally toxic so where do you go with the ‘bad stuff’ off the day? Who can you talk to? If you have no-one to talk to can you develop rituals that enable you to let go of negative emotions – exercise, journalling, crying (nothing better than a good cry now and then), watching your favourite funny movie, reading something uplifting and inspirational, taking up singing (excellent stress management) or even walking the dog! The key is don’t hold on to the bad stuff – it can make you ill and stops you feeling the good stuff.
6. Practice acceptance regularly – accept that like the British Weather, we all have good days and bad days. When you’re having a bad moment or day just tell yourself ‘This will pass’. Avoid getting stuck in it and thinking it will always be this way. A good read is ‘S.U.M.O (Shut Up Move On)’ by Paul McGee.
And now for the good stuff …
7. Know what makes you happy and do what makes you happy – even in small measure, do a little bit of what makes you happy and as often as you can. Listen to your favourite uplifting music, send a text message to someone you love, spend some time sitting in a café sipping a latte and watching the world go by. Make sure there is something in your diary that you are looking forward to – even if it’s really small.
8. Practice the power of optimism – people who can think optimistically and positively even during adversity experience much better physical and emotional health. Here is a powerful exercise to practise when you are a bit down – get a watch out and give yourself 60 seconds to list 10 positive things that have happened so far in your day from the time you got out of bed. Dig deep if you have to, don’t give up. You may find you come up with tiny things like getting a seat on the train or a nice cup of tea. It doesn’t matter what you come up with as long as you are able to see the positive in it. Do this regularly and it will literally start to change your outlook and patterns of thinking even if you are usually a bit of a ‘glass half empty’ person. A good read is ‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin Seligman.
9 . Practise the power of gratitude – similar to above exercise but even more uplifting. Here’s the exercise: sit down with a pen, paper and watch and aim to come up with a list of all of the things in your life you are grateful for – really go for it! Look at every area of your life – work, relationships, health, finances (even if you are worried about your finances, what have you been able to afford financially so far?). Most importantly – what are you grateful about in yourself? What traits, habits, characteristics do you have that you are grateful for? You may find this final part of the exercise a bit difficult but really think hard about it and you may be surprised by what you come up with. Put the piece of paper somewhere you can see it often – keep growing your list, keep reminding yourself how much you have to be grateful for. An excellent CD to listen to is Gosia Gorna’s ‘Happy Heart – Healthy Body’ available from www.Gosiagorna.com
10. Spend time with people you like and love. Surround yourself with positive triggers that help you to create the internal chemistry of well being – smells, sights, sounds. Many people spend hours and hours at their workplace but have no positive triggers around them – keep near to you pictures of your favourite holiday scenes, the people you love, the things you love doing. When you are having a bad day, look at your pictures and escape into your imagination – even for 30 seconds to remind yourself that it’s not all bad.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
You can read more about Dr Nerina at www.drnerina.com
For NHS advice about stress, anxiety and depression go to http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/understanding-stress.aspx