10 healthy ways to cope with stress

Stress is unavoidable. Whether we’re stuck in a traffic jam, facing a deadline, dealing with a personal crisis or just trying to cope with the inherent uncertainty of life, stress is woven into our days.

Whilst we can’t get rid of all stressors, we can learn how to navigate stressful situations more effectively when they arise and recover from them faster once they’re over – and even become more resilient in the process. 

We spoke to Nicola Jane Hobbs, Stress & Rest Researcher and Reflex Ambassador on the 10 ways you can help yourself cope with stress better and become more stress resilient. 

1. Slow down your breathing

Try inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of six. Making your exhale longer than your inhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps shift your nervous system out of a state of fight-or-flight and towards a state of restoration and recovery. 

2. Relax your muscles

Scan your body starting at the top, notice anywhere you’re holding tension and see if you can relax that area. Common places we hold tension are our jaws, shoulders and stomachs. 

3. Take a break from social media

Because of the emotive content and high-sensory stimulation, social media keeps your stress response switched on. Try limiting your time on it each day and take a couple of days off social media each week.

4. Practise self-compassion

Whilst self-criticism activates your stress response, self-compassion can help to switch it off and buffer you from the impact of stressful situations that are outside of your control. 

5. Reach out for support

Humans are social creatures. We aren’t designed to cope with stress alone. When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try sharing how you’re feeling with someone you trust.

6. Create a list of things you can control

If there is a specific situation that’s creating stress, write down the parts of the situation that you have control over and those you don’t. Once you’ve created this list, make a plan for how you can improve the situations in those areas where you do have control and practise acceptance in those areas you don’t.

7. Regularly access states of deep rest

Stress is a mind-body state that depletes our resources whereas deep rest is a mind-body state of recovery and restoration. Most people find they can access a state of deep rest through yoga, breathing practices and guided relaxations or meditations.

8. Get out in nature

Nature switches off our stress responses because, unlike concrete-covered cities and artificial lights, our nervous systems recognise nature as our home. Try hiking at the weekend or going on a walk to your local park on your lunch break – or you can bring nature to you by getting some houseplants. 

9. Look for joy

Positive emotions like joy and awe buffer us against the impact of chronic stress. Keep a joy journal and note down the things that give you a spark of joy throughout the day. 

10. Bookend your day with hope and gratitude

What’s going through your mind when you wake up and when you go to bed can have a huge impact on your mood, energy and stress. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, ‘What am I looking forward to today?’ and at the end of the day ask yourself, ‘What am I grateful for today?’

At Reflex, we value mental health just as much as physical health. Science tells us that exercise and mental health are intertwined and we believe that making quality sports nutrition isn’t just about enhancing body condition, strength and fitness but also about helping reach goals, enhancing wellbeing and ultimately making people feel good.️

Sometimes we feel that the fitness world can forget that it’s about more than just looks. We want to bring mental health to the forefront so start conversations, break down barriers and come together as a community to support one another. We don't want anything to stop you reaching your goals and feeling your best! 

For more wellbeing reading, check out our blog, The Locker. Or for a list of resources and support services see here