5 Stress-Relief Hacks
Stress – it’s a totally normal part of life. Every single person on the earth gets stressed, and it can be over the slightest of things. We can be stressed because of a multitude of things: our uni workloads, challenging-bosses, relationships, and even deeper reasons such as feeling like we haven’t found our place in the world, not knowing what career path to take, etc…
Something I noticed in myself recently was that I had the best immunity this winter – I literally had no colds at all! And then I began to feel really stressed – it was a buildup of a gazillion factors that I didn’t actually deal with! Then, one fine winter day, BOOM. I get a temperature of 38°C, and it lasts for 5 days straight. Ouch. That was my body saying, “Ana, you need to rest to regain your strength, but once you do, you need to take care of me!” And so I did.
Studies have shown that if someone experiences total or partial sleep deprivation, their cortisol levels become elevated1. That means that as sleep deprivation increases so does stress. It really pays off to develop a good sleeping schedule so that none of your stress is attributed to a factor which is totally controllable! Get some zzz.
2. Pay Attention to Your Food
Eating whole, nutritious food is the simplest thing, but so many of us forget! We are bombarded with packaged foods to the point where we think it’s normal and healthy to eat out of a box – this is because all of those marketing techniques have us forgetting and disregarding the amount of preservatives and synthetic chemicals used in these foods! Remember, preservatives can alter your hormones, including your cortisol levels. Choose what you eat, wisely!
While it is a growing area of research, it is safe to say that there is a relationship between levels of assertiveness (e.g. saying no to things you don’t want to do) and mental health2.
Learning to say no was such a big thing for me, and I can definitely vouch that once I started picking and choosing the things I would do, my stress levels decreased. Whenever my bosses asked me to ‘jump’, all I would say was ‘how high?’ – consequently, I found myself overwhelmed with way too many commitments and tasks at hand. Nowadays when I’m asked to do something I know I genuinely don’t want to do, I just say, “thanks for the opportunity, but I can’t take up the offer”.
4. Move that Body!
As most of us already know, being active is the perfect way to release the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, and therefore is a great way to deal with stress! It’s really simple – get that body moving!
5. Lavender (Essential Oil)
Lavender oil is historically known as a calming, relaxing, and sleep-enhancing oil. It is one of the most well-studied oils – it’s been subject to lots of research in the aromatherapy literature! I use Lavender oil by placing one drop in my palms and smelling my hands while I am in bed – it helps, well, knock me out! It smells divine and puts me to sleep right away. I also diffuse this into the air in my bedroom for around an hour before I go to sleep.
Wanna know an interesting fact? A study on the effects of lavender oil on infants3 found that infants who bathed in lavender oil infused water had decreased cortisol levels and fell into a deeper sleep than infants who had baths without lavender oil. That’s cool to know! I personally started bathing in lavender oil because the smell is just divine, but the extra benefits are a bonus!
P.S. I use essential oils from Doterra only. As far as I know in Australia, there is no ‘governing body’ for essential oils, meaning that some brands can claim to use “100% essential oil” but when you check the ingredients, that ‘100%’ makes 2% of the entire concoction. Doterra is an amazing brand with the most potent, pure oils (at least the best one I’ve come across so far).
1Mullington, J. M., Haack, M., Toth, M., Serrador, J. M., & Meier-Ewert, H. K. (2009). Cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 51(4), 294-302.
2Pourjali, F., & Zarnaghash, M. (2010). Relationships between assertiveness and the power of saying no with mental health among undergraduate student. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 9, 137-141.
3Field, T., Field, T., Cullen, C., Largie, S., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2008). Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early human development, 84(6), 399-401.