Sarah Fretwell

Yoga, Movement, Mobility, Wellness

How to relax when you're super stressed

Yoga, MindsarahComment


I always feel super busy around the Christmas period. I've got my group yoga classes and private 1:to:1's, which all need planning, my day job in marketing & advertising which is always fast-paced, as well as planning for Christmas! While I love the build up to Christmas, and I love my jobs, I can find myself getting so busy that I find it hard to relax. Then when I take some time out to relax, I get less done so it makes me feel more stressed.

On Sundays, I generally get a hell of a lot more of my to-do-list done than on any other week. My Sundays are spent teaching yoga, which is incredibly grounding and is something that I absolutely love, so I have a lot of clarity on Sundays and feel that much more able to prelax, and to work less but get more done.

We can make our weekdays more like Sundays, if we know how. So I'm going to give you the lo-down on how to feel less stressed and relax during the working week - especially in London where it's all go-go-go. There's nothing tricky in here, just little things that will all add up to help you to become more relaxed, and more able to wind-down towards the end of the day, to prepare for a great night's sleep.

  1. Set your alarm 5-10 minutes earlier than usual: once you have those extra 5-10 minutes before you're supposed to get up for work, you can relax more rather than jumping out of bed and straight towards the coffee machine. I set a calming song to wake me up 5 minutes before I need to get up. Then I simply lie there in my bed and meditate, focusing on my breath awareness - nothing too complex, just enough to allow myself to wake up gently and for myself to feel into my body before my mental to-do-list starts writing itself.

  2. Go get yourself some essential oils: I am a big fan of essential oils, and rarely go to sleep without putting a few drops of lavender oil on my pillow. Research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia - in a recent study, researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults and found that the volunteers ranked the quality of their sleep 20% better on average when in a lavender-scented room. I also make a bath oil using a blend of Safflower seed oil, Sunflower seed oil, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Chamomile and Rosewood essential oils. You can find these oils in Boots or on Amazon. Seriously, these scents have such a deeply calming and uplifting effect on the body and the mind that you will have the best night's sleep after your bath. I also love a NEOM candle because they smell heavenly!

  3. Legs up the wall: Sometimes, when I get home from a busy day at work, all I feel like doing is flopping on the sofa and zoning out with some TV (I'm religiously into the Walking Dead atm - not the best thing to watch before bedtime...). However, try this before you flop on the sofa. Legs up the wall is a yoga pose that is deeply restorative and helps drain all the blood from the feet and legs to the head, inducing a calming effect on the mind and body. Spend 10-15 minutes just relaxing here and breathing deeply. I find it helps tremendously when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

  4. Switch off your mobile: I try to stop looking at my phone and any electric devises such as my laptop after 8pm, as I find it disrupts my sleep, and it's been scientifically proven to over-stimulate the brain and disrupt your quality of sleep. There's no need for it, you won't miss out if you're not stalking your friend's friend on Instagram or browsing for clothes you don't need (I totally do this). Just switch it off, it will still be there when you switch back on.

  5. Stop the intense workout: When you're stressed out, adding an intense workout after your already stressful working day seems like you're doing yourself some good, right? Everyone on Instagram is telling you to switch up the intensity of your workout with HIIT or treadmill springs, and GO HARD OR GO HOME. HIIT is great for burning fat and for strength. Not so good when you're already stressed. Intense workouts such as High Intensity Interval Training raise your cortisol level, the stress hormone, which you want to reduce when you're already stressed out. Instead, to support a calm mind and body, try some gentle yoga before bed for 30 minutes, and reduce HIIT and intense workouts to 2x a week, with some LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) workouts into your regime, such as power walking or cycling.

  6. Eat to sleep better: Reach for the complex carbs both in the morning and for dinner. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and sweet potato stimulate the release of serotonin, the sleep-hormone, and help to increase tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin which in turn helps you to become more sleepy. So a great pre-bedtime meal would include something containing complex carbs and tryptophan: turkey, eggs, fish, beef, or duck. Then, to really increase your serotonin levels even more, have a bit of quality dark chocolate (80% or more). Dark chocolate is associated with increased serotonin levels, so reach for a few squares of that Green & Blacks goodness.

I hope my tips help you to relax more and lower your stress levels. Life can be so stressful, but you can make healthier choices by listening more closely to what your mind and body is telling you, and change how you react to stress. Don't over do anything - life is all about balance and moderation.