words by Molly Jennings

What is stress? Stress is an emotion human’s feel when they can’t cope with pressure. Life has many forms of pressure like demanding jobs, relationship problems, financial worries (we’ve all been there!). All these stresses trigger different kinds of responses in our bodies. Emotional stress can disguise itself in the form of depression or difficulty making decisions and physical stress can be related to sleep deprivation, weight fluctuation and even muscle tightness. Ever wondered why you always have a stiff neck or back? Consider that it might be down to your lifestyle. So sit back, relax and find out what the H&H team do to de-stress.

It might sound a bit backwards but exercising has been shown to decrease stress levels. It’s all to do with a little thing called endorphins (happy hormones). Exercising leads to the release of endorphins, making us feel happy and elated. But be careful not to over do it – light exercise like pilates, yoga or simple walk are among the best choices.

Stress, surprisingly, causes magnesium deficiencies, so including some magnesium-rich foods in to your diet may really help those struggling to manage stress. Magnesium has been found to have a calming effect on our nervous system, and some people call it the “natural tranquilliser” as it’s also known to improve sleep. Add some dark leafy greens to your meals like raw spinach or add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and some chopped banana to your morning smoothie or porridge for a stress-relieving breakfast.

Stretching is such a great way to alleviate stress. It increases blood flow around our bodies, improving our circulation and relieves muscle tension. It’s also a good time to practice deep breathing, which can also lead to releasing any emotional stress you may be hanging on to. We love downward dog position for an all over stretch or child’s pose for a relaxing lower back stretch.

Listen to music
Listening to some slow, relaxing music can have a very relaxing effect. It’s great for people who find it hard to switch off, mentally. Sparing a few moments in the day to listen to something soothing can help lower blood pressure and the heart rate.

Learn to say no
Saying no is more difficult than you might think. Us woman especially find it particularly hard. The phrase “you can’t please everyone” is so true. Spreading yourself too thin can wreak havoc on your stress levels and can leave you feeling totally exhausted. Know your limits on how much you can fit in, and if you really struggle to say no, we advise to take a day to respond. Ask yourself, “does this fit in with my current commitments?” If not, don’t be afraid to use the power of “no”. An “I’m not sure” can be wrongly misinterpreted as “I might do it later”.

Go Sugar-Free
As some of you may know, last Thursday saw the start of The H&H 10 Day Sugar-Free challenge. It’s all about giving your body a break from sugar before the joys of Christmas really get under way. We know sugar is bad, it spikes our insulin levels and disrupts our hormone levels, but can sugar cause stress to our bodies? The answer is yes. Sugar is an inflammatory substance that lies very high on the acidity table and has even been linked to many inflammatory conditions such as IBS and bloating. These conditions are our body’s way of showing us that we are stressed and may need a bit of a sugar detox. So say goodbye to the sweet stuff, it could be one of the best things you could do for your stress levels!

Image from Hush UK (one of our fave cosy-wear websites!): http://www.hush-uk.com/nightwear/all_nightwear/polka_dot_nightshirt_dark_navy_white.htm