Between 2014 and 2015, Britain lost 9.9 million working days to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

It’s fair to say that stress is a huge issue for many people and it’s on the increase, according to Health and Safety Executive statistics.

To coincide with Wellbeing Wednesday, an awareness day launched by The Stress Management Society and Rescue Plus encouraging folks to take time out more, a leading stress expert has issued some sound advice for staying composed in nail-biting situations.

Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society and author of the 10-Step Stress Solution, says there are a number of other things we can do throughout the day to help improve our sense of calm and composure. Here are some of them…

Try one minute of meditation

By practicing deep breathing you can start to relax as a regular rhythm can help calm you.

Sit or stand in a relaxed position, anywhere you want.

  • Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five.
  • Let the air out from your mouth, counting to eight.
  • As you breathe, let your abdomen expand outward, rather than raising your shoulders. This is a more relaxed and natural way to breathe.
  • Allow your mind to follow your breath as fresh air travels in through the nose, fills your lungs and ‘old’ air travels out through your mouth.

Do something you love

We all have something that we love doing, which never fails to put a smile on our face. Whether that’s going for a run or trying mindfulness colouring-in books.

In my case, that one thing is running outdoors with my dog Nanook and my colleagues in the office are in love with mindfulness colouring-in books.

We spend so much time on our devices, connected to social media and reading about what other people love doing; it’s time to take some time out, even if it’s 15 minutes, and do that thing that makes you happy

Be mindful

Think of mindfulness as ‘zoning in’ instead of ‘zoning out’. It is traditionally defined as: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Now to make this simple, think of a couple of small activities that are already part of your daily routine such as brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. When you get around to doing one of these activities:

  • Start by bringing awareness to your senses – how does the water feel on your hands, what does the soap smell like, how heavy does the plate feel in your hands and what sound is the running water making, and so on.
  • Whenever your mind wanders, just notice it and gently, with no judgment, bring it back to your senses.
  • Do it for just a few minutes at a time but in those few minutes, try to ‘zone in’ as much as possible and get absorbed in the moment.

Avoid stimulants

When you feel under pressure with life’s ups and downs, it’s easy to adopt unhealthy coping methods like smoking, alcohol and caffeine.
Steer clear of them, use your regular ‘tea break’ or ‘biscuit break’ as an opportunity to take time out.

Talk to someone

We’ve all heard of the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” and, like most clichés, it’s founded on a grain of truth. If you are troubled by something, don’t suppress it. Instead, speak to a friend or family member.

We’ve heard that even pets are pretty good listeners.

Take five minute breaks

We often develop tunnel vision when working on something for too long, so taking breaks away from any stressful task can help you remain calm.

When you feel overwhelmed or under pressure, step away for 5 minutes. If you can go outside, even better.

Fresh air and a short separation from whatever you were doing will allow you to come back and tackle the task at hand with more clarity and a more positive outlook.

By Natasha Hind, as published in the Huffington Post on 3rd February 2016

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