A little stress can be a good motivator to get moving, but prolonged periods of stress have a detrimental effect on our physical and emotional health.
Watching television, going online and lying on the sofa are popular go-tos when we’re trying to unwind but active relaxation techniques like meditation are far more effective stress-busters.
There is an arsenal of simple techniques that work to calm the nervous system and promote a feeling of relaxation … and a few minutes is all you need.
Here are five scientifically-backed ways to chill out.
Taking a few deep breaths might sound too simple to be an effective stress-buster, but the truth is that when you take long, slow breaths down into the abdomen rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you switch off the alarm signals in your body.
The result is a more relaxed physical and mental state. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. If you find it hard to do when you’re sitting up, try it lying down instead.
Body scan meditation
Focusing your attention on different body parts is an effective form of meditation.
Breathing into your abdomen, start with your feet and work your way up, focusing on how each part of your body feels while imagining each breath flowing to that body part.
Spend one to two minutes on each area but if short of time, simply focus on three of four areas.
Spend time in nature
Just 20 minutes spent feasting your eyes on forest scenery is enough to significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
No forest nearby? Simply disconnecting from electronic devices and going for a short stroll in a park or tree-lined street will work to soothe stress.
Studies suggests that nature
has the power to calm the nervous system, reduce heart rate and boost immunity.
Burning essential oils doesn't just fill your home with a beautiful scent, certain essential oils also have properties that promote relaxation and ease feeling of stress and mild anxiety.
And some are more powerful than others, with studies ranking holy basil, bergamot, lavender and ylang ylang amongst the most effective.
If you’re at work with no access to a burner, put a couple of drops of essential oil on a tissue to infuse the air around you with the scent.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a skilled illustrator or a mad doodler, science shows that creating art in any form can reduce levels of stress hormones in your body.
Just five minutes of sketching or whatever takes your fancy is enough to trigger a sense of relaxation, say the researchers , with even greater cortisol-reducing effects noticed after 45 minutes.