Reduce Stress

meditationAre you stressed out?

Living in London can be extremely stressful. If you're not careful, it can wear you down. And stress increases your levels of cortisol, the 'fight or flight' hormone, which harms your body's ability to burn fat, damages your heart, and impairs your quality of sleep.

Quick Fix

A great tip for instant de-stressing is to say silently to yourself "Deep breath, relax". Take a deep breath in while you think "deep breath", and breathe out as you think "relax". Repeat several times. You can do  it on the tube on the way to and from work, you can do it in your car, or even as you're walking along. More Londoners need to do this!

A day in the life of a stressed Londoner

You wake up groggy and unrefreshed, and groan at the prospect of another day in the office. You skip breakfast to save time, or wolf down one of those cereal bars packed with sugar and additives, which the adverts have tricked you into thinking is a healthy breakfast. You fight your way through traffic jams, or London's increasingly packed tubes and trains. You're assulted by pollution, noise, rude commuters pushing and shoving. You have a tough day at work, with just a brief break at lunchtime to gulp down a sandwich at your desk, fielding phone calls at the same time.

At the end of the working day, you fight through the crowds to get home. The tube is packed again, and there are severe delays. You're too tired to exercise or cook a healthy meal, so you slump in front of the TV with a takeaway (worst of all is the dreaded Chinese takeaway, which contains gallons of greasy MSG and a mountain of salt). If you're particularly stressed, you drink half a bottle of wine to relax you. Then you drag yourself off to bed, bloated with junk food and alcohol. Next day, you repeat it all over again. And the next, and the next, until you retire aged 80 (if you live that long, which is unlikely in this scenario).

At least you've got the weekend to unwind. Have you? There's the supermarket shop, the DIY, the housework and the laundry. There are dozens of annoying chores that never seem to go away -  buy a new washing machine, fire off emails of complaint to your mobile phone company or bank, pay bills, take your cat or dog or child to the vet, complete the tax return, catch up on work you've brought home with you.

There's family pressures, relationship pressures, social events you'd rather avoid. You promise yourself you'll go to the gym next weekend, or hire a personal trainer. Maybe next weekend, maybe next month, maybe never.

And you can't stop thinking of the work problems that lurk in wait for you on Monday. So to take your mind off things you party hard, open another bottle of wine, or smoke. Maybe the odd recreational drug. You drink more coffee, eat lots of fatty and sugary foods. And you stay up so late that you're dead on your feet when you go to bed.

Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps I've exaggerated a bit, but many elements of this scenario are played out by millions of Londoners all the time.

A stressful life can easily spiral out of control. Before you know it, your health starts to suffer, your quality of life deteriorates, your relationships become strained, and your ability to cope with life's inevitable challenges gets weaker. You start thinking negatively, you get more irritable, you stop appreciating the good things in life, and the good people around you.

Your judgment starts to falter, your ability to earn a higher income suffers, you can't see the wood for the trees, you put things off, procrastinate, you bury your head in the sand. In extreme cases, this can lead to depression, cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of other mental and physical illnesses.

Stress-reduction action plan

Four things need to be right up there among your top priorities, so you can combat stress and enjoy every day of your life far more.

What are those four priorities? They're sleep, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation.

Sleep, nutrition and exercise are covered in more detail elsewhere on this site, just follow the links. Lets focus here on relaxation - see if you can build these 7 elements of relaxation into your life:

1. Laugh more. Read comedy fiction, watch comedy films and sitcoms. Laugh with friends. Laughter is a great stress-reliever.
2. Have a warm bath in a darkened bathroom with scented candles.
3. Connect with nature. Go for a walk in the park, sit and watch the squirrels. Lie on the grass in the park.
4. Meditate. Go find a quiet place, lie on the floor, listen to soothing music, and focus on deep breathing.
5. Treat yourself to a massage. Click the link for massage therapists in London.
6. Connect with your partner, friends and family. Choose friends who have a calming influence on you.
7. Take a break outside London for a change of scene. A long holiday is ideal, but even short breaks away can refresh you. There are some fantastic luxury spas just outside London, such as Champneys Forest Mere (in Liphook, Hampshire), Grayshott Spa (near Hindhead, Surrey), Pendley Manor Hotel (Tring, Hertfordshire), and dozens more.

How to prioritise

I bet you're thinking, "In an ideal world, it would be great to devote my life to relaxation, healthy eating, exercise, and plenty of sleep. But my career/business is my top priority, and there isn't enough time in the day to devote to relaxation and healthy eating, let alone exercise and get enough sleep."

I personally believe that there's nothing that will advance your career/business more effectively in the long term, than to put relaxation, sleep, nutrition, exercise as your top priorities. You'll have the energy and clarity of mind to make leaps and bounds in your career or business, and the mental and physical strength to prosper in the long run.

You may quite rightly say, "My partner, family and friends are my top priority."  Again, there's no better way to enhance your closest relationships, than to achieve the degree of physical and mental and emotional health that prioritising sleep/relaxation/nutrition/exercise will give you. If you get sick, your loved ones' quality of life will suffer too.

Check out these action steps you can take in order to create the time for your new priorities:

1. Clarify in your mind just how much better life will be when you get more relaxation time, eat better, exercise more, and sleep better. The stronger your emotional commitment to making sleep/relaxation/good nutrition/exercise your top priorities, the more likely you'll find the willpower and ingenuity to create time for them.

2. Say no more often. Hard to do at first, but the more you clarify your priorities, the easier it becomes to say no to things that get in the way of good sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and relaxation. There's an old saying, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Stick to your priorities, and you'll become expert at ignoring distractions. Say no to social commitments you don't want to go to. Say no to excess alcohol and coffee and unhealthy foods. Say no to excessive work commitments and excessively long working hours.

3. Be more assertive, be decisive, express your feelings, and deal with challenges head-on. This ties in with the ability to say no (see 2 above). The more skilled you get at expressing yourself and tackling problems head on, the less time and energy you'll waste procrastinating, or over-committing yourself. There's lots of time management, goal setting, and assertiveness advice on the Mind Power section of this site. Take advantage of it.

4. Delegate. Do the weekly food shopping online, hire a cleaner to do the housework, get your clothes collected and dry cleaned and delivered back to you. All this will create valuable time for your new priorities. Find as many ways of delegating chores as you can. Your time is valuable, make the most of it.


Return to London personal training page