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how to stay calm in stressful situations stress and mental health ways to release stress green tea for stress strategies for managing stress

Learn How to Stay Calm in Stressful Situations — Here's What to Do

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Frequent feelings of stress are increasing across the UK. A 2018 survey reports that 74% of adults find it challenging to manage stress [1]. Luckily, techniques exist to curb such feelings, and anyone can get started because these strategies are simple and easy to implement.

If stressful situations get the best of you, you may often wonder why you feel this way — whether you're stressed about work, money, family, or all of the above, learning about how your brain works can make all the difference. The human stress response involves several brain areas, including the region related to emotional processing. When the brain perceives a threat, a chain reaction occurs involving several hormones that prompt the release of cortisol — the primary stress chemical. Strategies for managing stress typically target this brain chemical.

Wondering how to stay calm in stressful situations? Try these five ways to release stress and support positive well-being.

The power of emotional regulation

Although changing cortisol levels are inevitable, emotional regulation can help you alter how you respond. Focus on increasing positive emotions while decreasing negative ones can significantly impact how you feel and react in stressful situations. Strategies include cognitive reappraisal and suppression of negative emotions [2].

You can change the impact of how a specific situation affects you. This strategy is reappraisal, where you see things from a different perspective. For example, if your car got a flat tire, instead of becoming overwhelmed, remind yourself you're fortunate to have a vehicle as many people must rely on others for reliable transportation.

Based on the same example, controlling defeatist body language or stopping yourself from crying because of a flat tire describes the second strategy. This strategy aims to reduce behaviours and expressions related to negative emotions. This is referred to as suppression. The idea is to alter the experience of your underlying emotional state.

Drink green tea for stress — here's why

The naturally-occurring "building block" of protein found in green tea is called L-theanine. As L-theanine levels increase, so do concentrations of the "relaxation chemical" known as GABA. Research shows that brain waves linked to relaxation increase upon consumption. These waves, called alpha waves, indicate relaxation without drowsiness [3].

This nutrient is safe in high doses, as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limit is 1200 mg. For reference, a cup of green tea contains 8-30 mg [4].

Opt for L-theanine supplementation. Isolated from green tea leaves, each capsule provides 250 mg of pure L-theanine, the equivalent of around 15-20 cups of green tea. Browse natural theanine from only £15.99. Additional 15% off your 1st order using code NEW15

Slow breathing helps relieve stress and boost mental health.

Slow breathing techniques have long been used for stress and mental health concerns to help re-focus the brain. As you slow your breathing and take deeper breaths, you increase the oxygen supply to your brain. Research shows that as oxygen levels increase, so does activity in the nerves that relax your body after prolonged periods of stress [5].

To begin, take just ten breaths per minute. You can then start to learn more specific techniques to help you stay calm while training your nervous system for resilience, like SKY breathing. This technique can be practised in several ways. For example, a conscious experience of your breath touching your throat, taking just 2-4 breaths per minute. In contrast, some breathe air rapidly and then exhale forcefully at 30 breaths per minute [6].

Mindfulness improves your stress response

Mindfulness is a form of meditation involving intense awareness of how you're feeling and what you're experiencing — "living in the moment," as they say. When you master this practice, you can naturally adapt to stress and decrease its effect. You can achieve this by changing your mental perception of stressful events so that you react better.

As a result, you'll improve your mental well-being and mood, decrease the risk of burnout, and enhance core areas of your life.

For example, a recent study finds that mindfulness is linked to lower perceived stress and higher work engagement [7]. To benefit from mindfulness, learn to slow down and pay attention to the world around you with greater intention. Observe your thoughts, stay present based on your senses, focus on your breath, eat mindfully, and practice active listening.

Based on a large survey of 34,525 U.S. adults, this practice has been shown to help 89.4% of people feel more relaxed, and 21.6% overcome frequent stress. These individuals had practised meditation in the past twelve months and used varying methods. Nearly 17% participated in a class, attending an average of eight classes a year, while 20% purchased self-help resources to learn more about meditation and mindfulness [8]. These figures showcase the flexibility of this practise — you can go at your own pace and take your own approach, making this process as simple or complicated as you wish. 

A good sense of humour can alter your perception

Laughing feels good, so aim to have a great sense of humour. When you laugh, your brain swaps out cortisol for "feel good" brain chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. A good sense of humour promotes optimism and a more positive mindset, helping you buffer the burden of stress to ease your response.

Training yourself to develop a better sense of humour is possible and was accomplished in a recent group intervention study. Researchers developed a program based on the principles of positive psychology to help employees adopt a sense of humour to deal with stress, resulting in lower scores on psychological distress. This stress-coping mechanism is based on cognitive, physiological, and interpersonal approaches [9].

As author and speaker Joan Borysenko once said, "Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace." Remember that when incorporating these five strategies for managing stress in your life. Go slow and be easy on yourself.

References

  1. Mental Health Foundation. Stressed nation: 74% of the UK 'overwhelmed or unable to cope' at some point in the past year. July 2022. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/about-us/news/survey-stressed-nation-UK-overwhelmed-unable-to-cope

  2. Katana, M. et al. (2019). Emotion Regulation, Subjective Well-Being, and Perceived Stress in Daily Life of Geriatric Nurses. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1097.

  3. Nobre, A. C., et al. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17 Suppl 1, 167–168.

  4. Saeed, M. et al. (2020). L-theanine: an astounding sui generis amino acid in poultry nutrition. Poultry Science, 99(11), 5625–5636.

  5. Zaccaro, A. et al. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 353.

  6. Zope, S. A. et al. (2013). Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International journal of yoga, 6(1), 4–10.

  7. Bartlett, L. et al. (2021). Mindfulness Is Associated With Lower Stress and Higher Work Engagement in a Large Sample of MOOC Participants. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 724126.

  8. Cramer, H. et al. (2016). Prevalence, patterns, and predictors of meditation use among US adults: A nationally representative survey. Scientific reports, 6, 36760.

  9. León-Pérez, J. M. et al. (2021). Effectiveness of a Humor-Based Training for Reducing Employees' Distress. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(21), 11177. 

 

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