Easy ways to reduce stress levels
11 April 2022
We could all do with reducing our stress levels, and there are easy ways to achieve this both in and out of the home
It’s fair to say the last couple of years have been immensely stressful for all of us. Even as the UK emerges from the pandemic, its knock-on effects continue to affect basic everyday activities like obtaining medical appointments and travelling abroad. And while the acute stresses of lockdown are mercifully fading into history, the subsequent series of economic and geopolitical shocks has given us new things to be concerned about.
The human body is designed to absorb a certain amount of low-level stress, but too much of it could knock years off your life expectancy, accelerating the onset of health conditions including diabetes, depression and heart disease. As such, it’s vital to minimise stress levels, creating a peaceful home environment and giving your mind the best chance to keep specific worries in proportion. These are some of the ways to diminish domestic stress levels…
Smells are incredibly evocative, whisking you back to a childhood memory or a specific moment in time. Replicating these aromas around the home can be accomplished using scented candles or wax melts, reed diffusers or air fresheners. It usually takes trial and error to find scents which are both calming and pleasant, since one person’s olfactory nerve might interpret the same aroma very differently to the next person. Citrus and floral scents are generally recommended, including orange and lemon, lavender and sandalwood.
Although it’s often associated with religion, mindfulness is a simple trick which prevents the brain from worrying by forcing it to focus on something else. Our minds can only handle one thought at any given instant, and concentrating your full attention on breathing or sensory input (food, music, etc) is an easy way to lower your resting pulse and banish troubling thoughts. Mindfulness takes a lot of practice, but concentrating fully on one thing heightens your enjoyment of it in unexpected ways.
Busy lives often seem too crowded to permit exercise, yet physical activity doesn’t have to be intensive or inconvenient. Smart exercise equipment lets you cycle through stunning Alpine scenery or run part of the London Marathon circuit, all from the comfort of your home and at a time that suits. Local classes and groups offer gentle exercise (tai chi, yoga, swimming) alongside companionship and even a ten-minute stroll after lunch provides a wealth of physical and mental stimulation.
The phrase ‘tidy home, tidy mind’ might sound like a cliché, but there are proven links between the two. Conversely, living in a cluttered or dirty home is guaranteed to raise stress levels. It’s easy to become obsessive about cleaning, so keep it in moderation; draft up a weekly schedule for things like laundry and dusting. Allocate everything a dedicated home so it’s easier to find whenever needed. Full-height shelving units and cupboards help to maximise available space, while under bed storage and bathroom cabinets are also advisable.
Although osteopaths might recommend hard mattresses and firm wooden chairs, there are few pleasures greater than sinking into a squashy armchair, or climbing into a bed laden with pillows and mattress protectors. Similarly, don’t try to read a good book in gloomy conditions – reduce eye strain and maximise your reading pleasure with a well-positioned lamp. Sitting beside a large window as the sun streams through is a simple home comfort, as is wrapping your hands around a warm mug of hot chocolate on a cold spring morning.
Many of us are still experiencing repercussions from the last two years, alongside wider concerns around spiralling living costs and a war in Europe. Most of these events are beyond our individual control, and accepting this is a vital step towards reclaiming a sense of inner calm. While we can all control who we socialise with and how our careers progress, it’s advisable not to dwell on (or catastrophise over) global factors which we can’t materially affect. Worrying about something doesn’t change it – only your perception of it.