5 Shortcuts to Relieving Your Stress

Research produces a report every so often that reports on the effectiveness of exercise and mindfulness for relieving stress. A recent study suggests that the combination of exercise and mindfulness lowers anxiety and depression. But we’re not always immediately ready to overcome the barriers for setting up a regular exercise routine and/or a daily mindfulness habit.

In the meantime, here are some shortcuts to relieving stress at work and/or home:

1. Do your chores mindfully 
Doing an activity, which we would typically do mindlessly, more mindfully can be helpful for managing stress. This study found that focusing on the smell of the soap and the soapiness of the dish water helped participants lower their anxiety. But you’re in charge of cooking, not washing dishes? Fret not, someone’s got to cut the vegetables, clean the kitty litter, walk the dog, and water the plants (paying attention to whether there are new shoots)…the world’s your oyster, as long as you do it mindfully.

2. Enjoy a cup of tea
Life’s difficulties seem more manageable with a cup of tea. Apparently it’s not because tea itself is relaxing but rather, we find hot beverages to be soothing. It may also be that the scent of lemon, lavender and mango reduces our stress response. French Earl Grey which is a blend of citrus with the usual bergamot, paired with a lemon tart or mango pudding, could be the balm to your stressful day.

3. Savour your coffee and bread
The smell of freshly-baked bread was found in this study to make participants more likely to help a stranger, while the smell of roasted coffee beans helped to lower the stress of sleep deprivation in this study. But if you enjoy the smell of neither bread baking nor coffee being ground, there’s yet another quick fix. The scent of jasmine produced a calming effect on the participants of this study. So the next time you need to go shopping to feel better, try hunting down some scented candlesperfume, or handmade soaps!

4. Early bird gets better sleep
Exercise and mindfulness aren’t the only recurring themes in stress management. In fact, experts now advocate getting the right amount of sleep — not too much and not too little. And getting good quality sleep is apparently about shutting out the street lights with blackout curtains or moving to a neighbourhood with less light pollution (Pulau Ubin, anyone?) and getting up to soak up the morning sun. Short-wave light when received in the early part of our day, regulates our sleep cycle, which helps us manage stress better.

5. Are you guilty of catastrophizing?
The key to having less stress is about how we perceive the stressors. It’s actually within our control. A 2016 study observes that those, who experience negative emotions during an event they view as stressful, tend to have a poorer physiological response to stress — their heart rate doesn’t vary a great deal. In contrast, a healthy response to stress is characterised by greater variability in our heart rate. So, one way to manage stress is about letting go! Try asking yourself if it’s as bad as you initially thought it was…

6. Get proactive — be helpful!
A recent study found that engaging in helpful behaviours is another effective strategy for coping with everyday stress. Participants of the study who did more for other people not only experienced more positive emotions during the day but they also had better mental wellbeing. Try these random acts of kindnessHere are some more!

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Shortcuts to a happier life with your partner

Shortcuts to a happier life with your partner

There’s one day in the year we’re especially nice to our loved ones. There’s also another day we’re patient and generous with our time. And yet another that we’re considerate, amiable, sociable and conciliatory. We try to be our best selves on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. But what about the other days in the year?

Life in the fast lane often leaves us with spare precious time for romantic gestures during the ordinary work week. So what are some things we can do about it?

Based on recent research, there are actually a few small steps which can make all the difference. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Am I picking a fight because I’m hungry? 
A 2014 study found that couples were more likely to choose to subject their spouse to irritating or annoying sounds (fingernails against a blackboard or ambulance siren) when they were hungry (and having low blood sugar levels). So, have a meal or snack before you engage in verbal battles!

2. Am I punctual? Do I do what I say I’ll do?
A recent study found that couples who intentionally gave as much as priority to their partner as to their work, were less physically and emotionally stressed. Having a relationship work ethic means investing in your relationship, “putting the same kind of energy into active listening, planning time together, finding a workable solution for sharing household tasks, and handling personal stress so that it doesn’t spill over into the relationship” (sciencedaily.com).

3. Do I appreciate my partner and express my appreciation to him/her?
Research shows that successful relationships are rooted in a culture of trust and intimacy. These couples seek to express appreciation for their partner; they also respond in such a way as to meet their partner’s emotional needs. In contrast, the silent treatment — where one responds to demands from one’s partner’s by withdrawing — is a sign of distress within a relationship. The key to a successful relationship is kindness. So practice kindness, starting with this resource list and these ideas.

4. Would I watch and talk about these movies with my partner?
A recent study found that having couples watch and discuss one relationship movie a week over a period of a month, was as effective as conflict management training and compassion and acceptance training in reducing divorce-and-separation rates. Couples trained to manage conflict were encouraged to use active listening when communicating with their spouse, while those trained to communicate with compassion and empathy were encouraged to practice random acts of kindness and affection and to communicate effectively. So if attending therapy sessions is daunting, get comfy on the sofa and discuss these questions with your partner after the movie ends.

Finally, here are some tips for small problems and the basics to building a strong relationship. There are no real shortcuts to the happy life. Kindness takes practice.