Posted on Jul 26th, 2006

Whilst there are hundreds of books, therapies, drugs, herbal remedies, self help courses and specialist activities available for reducing stress, there are still only two ways to have less stress in your life. Firstly remove the cause of the stress. Secondly, find ways to reduce its impact. Put like that it sounds so simple and easy, but the reality is that when you are stuck in the middle of the wood, it’s hard to see the trees.

As in many things, it’s often the natural simple things that can have the most beneficial effect so don’t be fooled by the ‘low tech, back to basis’ style of these suggestions. They are all based on our senses, the five ways that we directly experience life. And most of the suggestions below are free and don’t involve chemicals!

Stimulate the five senses.

Smell – Lavender oil has long been known for its ability to relieve tension and ease stress. Put a few drops on your pillow at night or by day consider keeping a tissue nearby that has been laced with its distinctive aroma.

Taste – Stress strips the body of vital vitamins, especially B and C. And if you rely on high caffeine intake to cope, this also depletes your supplies of vitamin C. So have something good to eat. I will make you feel better and help to replace those lost vitamins. Complex carbohydrates will induce the release of serotonin making you feel calm.

Sight – A daily ‘nature hit’ is essential to our wellbeing. 1980’s study showed that patients recovering from operations recovered more quickly when their view was of nature, plants and trees rather than more urban features such as roads, walls and buildings. So to reduce stress, why not take time out to surround yourself with nature?

Hearing – Meditating by focussing on a single sound can alter brainwave patterns to alpha which are naturally relaxing. Alternatively if you don’t want to spend months learning how to meditate then listen to a binaural beat recording instead. A binaural beat of 4.9hz will produce exactly the same calming alpha state.

Feeling – One symptom of stress is quick and shallow breathing. This starves the body of fresh oxygen, so breathe from the stomach rather than the chest - this also helps to expel stale air that can accumulate in the lower lungs. Breathe slowly and deeply and concentrate on making the out breath longer than the in breath, this naturally reduces stress.

The important thing is that whatever you do, do something. For example you could take a deep breath right now, hold it and exhale slowly… Trust your instincts and rely on your five senses to lead you out of that stressful wood.

Jim Brackin contributes tips, help and advice on http://www.virtual-therapist.com popular psychology to variety of magazines like Cosomopolitan and Women’s Own. He is the body language expert for Sky News (UK)and developed http://www.personaliteye.com that provides free visually based personality profiles.

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