1. Find a ‘meditative’ hobby
Knitting, photography, gardening or any pastime that’s creative and absorbing, can be a powerful stress stopper. “Creative activities and hobbies can help a person focus on something productive and get away from their worries for a while,” explains psychologist Dr Robert Reiner.
2. Stay social
Organise regular catch-ups with friends. So even if you’re in lockdown, make a weekly facetime or zoom catchup. In one study, brain scans showed that we register social isolation in the same way we register physical pain. So keep friends close. One caveat: associate with people who leave you feeling energised, not emotionally tapped out. Real friends will make you feel your best.
3. Laugh a little (or a lot)
Simply anticipating laughter is enough to reduce cortisol levels by nearly half, according to one US study. So ask a funny friend out for coffee, or in lockdown schedule ‘game nights’ with friends online and play whatever your favourite board games are together, remotely.
4. Listen to music
Music can have a calming effect on the brain, especially while you’re facing down a major stressor. So queue up your favourite tunes when you’re hosting dinner for your in-laws or sitting in the waiting room at your doctor’s office, for instance.
5. Schedule a massage
A little pampering can rub your stress levels the right way. After weeks of massage therapy, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased, on average, by nearly one-third, according to several international studies. Massage sessions also promote production of dopamine and serotonin, the same feel-good hormones released when we socialise or do something fun.