The modern age moves at 100mph and many of us feel unequipped to cope with the huge expectations we have on ourselves, along with all that life throws at us. To mark National Stress Awareness day on 2 November, London-based hypnotherapist and anxiety expert at Calmer You, Chloe Brotheridge, suggests five simple ways to ditch stress and become your calmest, happiest self:
1. Spit it out
A 2007 study at UCLA confirmed what many of us who love to vent our feelings already know. Talking helps. The study found that went we put our feelings into words (you know, instead of keeping them bottled up to fester) it helps to calm the activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in our stress response.
So whether you tell a colleague 'If I have to look at that spreadsheet for one more minute, I'll cry' or call your bestie during a stressful visit to your partner's family to tell her about your mother-in-law's controlling ways, talking about it will help to chill you out. If there's no one around to hear your woes, grab and pen and paper and write it down; it's the next best thing.
2. Say no
Is too much 'yes' causing you to stress? If you've been saying 'yes' to the point of burn out, whether it's from an eagerness to please other people or a fear of missing out on the action, it's time to set some boundaries. There is only one of you and the idea of 'having it all' is a definite myth.
Sure, you can have it all...but not all at once! You're not going to be much use to anyone, least of all yourself, if you're being sucked dry and meanwhile not filling up your own cup. Saying no to the things you know, deep down, that you don't have the capacity for, means you're freeing up more mental space, energy and good vibes for the things you really want to do – and there'll be way less pressure on you.
3. Quit striving
Many psychologists agree that everything we do, whether it's working hard in our careers, going out on the town every night or striving for the perfect body – is to attain one final goal; happiness. Unfortunately what ends up happening for many of us is that the stress this striving creates, sabotages our chance for happiness. Things like having a good body or being successful often aren't the things that make us truly happy anyway. It means we're always seeking and never finding those elusive good feelings.
Instead, ask yourself, is there a more direct route to happiness that can be reached with less stress? Buddhism teaches tells us that the route to happiness is through inner peace; by accepting ourselves, where we are, right now. Stop chasing and instead focus on what feels good in the moment - then go do more of that.
4. Schedule in breaks
Your brain needs rest in order to process things and function properly and if you're telling yourself 'I'm too busy to take a break' (I've been there) – then you definitely need a break.
Life coach Marie Forleo has a saying: 'If it's not scheduled in, it's not happening'. Most of us live by our diaries and if somethings in there, it's ON.
We develop resilience to stress not by removing it from our lives (spoiler alert: impossible anyway) but by experiencing stress and then giving ourselves time to recover from it. Get a hot drink, go for a walk, book into a class or schedule in some (actual) Netflix and chill time; just make sure it happens.
5. Good enough is good enough
When we're really honest, many of us discover that 90% of the pressure we're under, is pressure we're piling on ourselves. Of course you want to do things well; everything from looking good, to delivering killer presentations at work, to cooking delicious food when you have friends over.
But if you're expecting yourself to have the body of a Victoria's Secret Model, the stage presence of Oprah and the baking abilities of Mary Berry – it might be time to loosen your grip on perfection and instead accept that being you and doing your best, in all your glory (and glorious messiness) – is always enough. Always.