Tricks to combat stress: breathe deep; eat well

Fight stress on two fronts: deal with it as and when it arises, and get to the root of the problem with wise lifestyle and habit choices.

Stress has become a part of modern life and it seems we all have moments when things get too much and we feel snowed under with pressure on all sides. There's no simple solution, of course, no way to instantly switch off the tension. But there are certain coping strategies you can use, and by cultivating good lifestyle habits, you should find things don't get so overwhelming.


Take time to breathe
We're all familiar with the idea of counting to a hundred or taking “time out” when you feel yourself about to explode with anger or say something you're likely to regret later. Well, it works for stress, too, particularly when coupled with deep breathing.

When things get fraught, try and step away for a couple of minutes, find somewhere quiet, if at all possible, and focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath, feeling how your lungs fill up with air, then exhale slowly, concentrating on how the air just ebbs away. Repeat this several times and you should find your pulse and heart rate decrease and your mind becomes more calm, meaning you're more able to cope when you rejoin the fray.

Food for thought
Lifestyle habits such as diet also have an effect on your stress levels: heavy meals and drinks with caffeine, sugar or alcohol are all thought to exacerbate the problem.

Maybe you can't seem to get going in the morning without a shot of coffee, but there's a world of difference between a simple coffee to perk you up and the endless stream of caffeine that so many of us pour down our throats.  Why not try and substitute some of the coffee breaks with herbal or fruit teas? Some of these – linden, valerian, chamomile... – are said to be especially useful in combatting anxiety and stress.

And it's not just what you drink. When things are going badly, it's easy to lose sight of the basics, but a balanced and regular diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and cereals, will contribute to better general health and help you cope with whatever life brings.

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