How to wind down
We’ve come to accept stress as a normal part of every-day life. In fact, 93% of Aussies feel stressed often, with over 50% feeling ‘high levels’ of stress, according to a 2011 Lifeline survey (1).
In an effort to cope with stress, many people turn to unhealthy habits, such as comfort eating, alcohol, and binge-watching Netflix until midnight. However, as you may have noticed, the ‘high’ you experience with these habits is only short lived, and often, you’re left feeling sluggish, ‘guilty’, and STILL stressed afterwards!!
So rather than tucking into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, what CAN we do to unwind and de-stress after a long day? We’ve listed our top 5 stress-busting activities that will nourish you physically and mentally.
1. Go for a walk
There are so many physical benefits to walking, including weight loss, bone and joint health and blood sugar control. But that’s not all – walking can improve your mental health as well! In fact, one study involving 81 healthy adults found that walking combined with resting resulted in a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure (a marker of stress) compared with resting alone (2). Furthermore, any form of aerobic exercise, including walking, can reduce circulating stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol (3).
To help take your mind off work, the kids, or whatever your busy day involves – just slip on your runners, pop your earphones in, and listen to an audiobook or podcast whilst taking in the fresh air and scenery.
2. Try a slow movement class
When it comes to group exercise classes, we’d hardly call Spin, Body Pump or Boxing relaxing! However, Goodlife offer a range of wellbeing classes that aim to calm the body and clear the mind, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, and Body Balance. These classes cater to all fitness levels, and involve slow movements with stretch, balance and breathing exercises. Once you get the hang of it, you’re sure to leave these classes with a ‘zen’ feeling.
3. Listen to guided meditation Meditation may seem ‘unnatural’ to you, but if you’re able to push those first few awkward attempts, it has many proven benefits for mental health. For example, reduced stress, improved sleep quality, greater immunity against disease, enhanced productivity, and an overall sense of wellbeing (4). Another bonus - it’s easy and quick to participate, with most guided meditation tracks lasting 10-15 minutes or less. We recommend downloading the Smiling Minds or Calm app on your phone, and listening to a track after your long day. If it’s hard to find a quiet minute at home, we’ve sometimes listened in the car!
4. Cook with some background music If you love to cook, this one’s for you. Reading a recipe, chopping veggies and grilling proteins will surely take your mind off the daily grind, giving you a ‘mental holiday’. In order to make cooking a relaxing experience, take it slow. Have a small snack before you start, if needed, so that you aren’t in a rush to eat. Cook mindfully – enjoy the lovely smells, and listen to the sizzles, bubbles and pops. Why not listen to some soothing music while you work, such as classical, soul or jazz? The pleasure of a delicious, healthy meal will also do wonders for your mood!
5. Have a cup of herbal tea Nothing beats a hot cuppa after a long day – so relaxing! And it’s more than just the warmth – for many years and across many cultures, herbal teas have been favoured for their calming effect. In particular, studies have shown that chamomile tea may relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality (5). Scientists are stumped as to how chamomile works its magic, but who cares - so long as it works!