It Starts With A Smile

Relieve pressure, tension and stress with six simple steps from holistic health coach Tori Boughey

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you’re living, you’re stressed, even if you don’t think you are. That’s because stress is the natural physical and mental reaction to so many situations. Although occasionally useful in the short term in times of emergency, over time it can become dangerously detrimental to your health.

Research has shown it can wreak havoc with your immune system, your libido, your digestive system, your ability to lose weight and can even be the principal cause of type II diabetes.

It’s now so common, it’s virtually ignored, with people choosing to live with it than fix it. But it can be fixed. You can alleviate the pressures of stress by taking simple steps every day – and you needn’t lock yourself away in a wood cabin to make them stick.

Here’s the six steps I take to keep my mind and body serene when I feel stress is on the rise.

Think quality, not just quantity. On average we’ll spend almost a third of our lives sleeping – or at least trying to. Good quality sleep goes way beyond just boosting your mood and eliminating those dark circles below the eyes. It’s now more than ever linked to better health, clearer thinking, stronger immunity and reducing stress. The number of hours sleep varies for the individual. I find I function best on eight hours. If you feel you need more, listen to your body and allow yourself some more sleep. If you struggle with your sleep here are few things that might help:

  • Keep your room cool. While we sleep our core temperature starts to drop so cooling off before bed will help you fall asleep quicker.
  • Finish dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime so your body can finish digesting your food before you slip into snooze mode.
  • Enjoy a nightcap of calming calcium, chamomile and hops in Bodyism’s Serenity supplement to pacify your stress levels.

When stressed I tend to crave sugar. That’s because it causes an initial release of the happy hormone serotonin that calms down levels of the stress hormone cortisol. However, this is just the initial phase. Your body will then crash leaving you feeling even worse. You can get this natural boost in serotonin and the pleasure hormone dopamine from foods such as turmeric, bananas, oatmeal, eggs, green tea, dark chocolate, nuts and beetroot. Now, when stressed, I make a conscious effort to turn to dark chocolate and nuts.

Know when to go hard and when to go slow. Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve pressure by causing the release of stress-busting endorphins that leave you feeling great post-workout. But constantly going full throttle can sometimes be detrimental. Putting too much stress on your body, especially when already under the pump from work or your social life, can cause cortisol levels to spiral and lead to your body storing food as fat rather than using it for energy.

Surround yourself with people who make you smile, giggle, guffaw and LOL. Research has shown being happy on the outside can genuinely improve your happiness on the inside, especially when it comes to combating stress. If you struggle to raise a smile at times, plant a “secret smile” on your face. Turn up the edges of your mouth slightly. The first time I was told to do this was in a yoga class while holding a pose that my face was clearly showing I didn’t enjoy. But it made such a difference. Smile secretly, smile often. And when you do truly laugh out loud, appreciate it and make the most of it.

Trust your gut instinct – it’s so powerful. Our bodies always know what is right for us. When you’re stressed and confused, take a moment to tune into your physical body and listen to what it’s telling you. Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable? Are you tense or relaxed? Take a few slow, deep breaths, centre yourself and start making decisions from your gut. You’ll begin to feel a lot more in tune with who you are and the decisions you make will in turn be the right ones for you.

For all those people pleasers and over achievers this is for you, and it’s one of the most important factors in finding serenity. It might come as a surprise because “no” is usually associated with negative things, but by using it more it’ll actually enhance your self-confidence, energy, authenticity and mood. There is a limit on how much we can do in a day. Your time is incredibly valuable and in order to get the most out of your day it’s important you choose carefully the meetings/coffees/events you’re attending. Overloading yourself will mean you’re forced to say no. But taking back control by saying no out of a conscious decision from a place of self-care transforms stress into serenity. Start practising this today and within a couple of weeks you’ll notice how liberating it can be.

Tori Boughey is a holistic health coach and the founder of the holistic wellness site Tbalance.

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