I’ve heard “we’re all in this together” a LOT since the pandemic began. It always makes me think of the workers across Canada staring at their screens. After all, as a registered counsellor providing private video appointments at TELUS Health MyCare™, I’m one of them!

If you’re like me, pulling away from the screen can feel like an accomplishment. Yet, we all know it’s important to take screen breaks. Getting outdoors, and better yet, working in a bit of exercise, will increase your benefits faster than a funny car in a drag race. From the great outdoors to shakin’ your rump, here are 8 simple tips to reduce your stress.

1. Get out of the box

Getting outside reduces cortisol, a stress hormone your body releases when you’re overwhelmed or alarmed. Recent research shows that cortisol levels start to drop after as little as 20 minutes in nature. No extreme survival skills are required.

Simply sitting in a park, walking on a beach, or strolling through a forest can greatly improve stress levels. Just walk the dog or grab a coffee-to-go, and you will reap the mental health benefits of being outdoors.

2. Do it for 20 minutes a day

Of the many benefits of getting more active—stronger muscles, weight loss, a healthier heart, a more powerful sex drive—mental resilience and less stress stand out. Physical exercise boosts brain function and wellbeing by improving your ability to cope with stress.

Getting active outside every day helps lower your heart rate and improve your sleep quality. Exercise doesn’t have to mean training for a marathon or pumping iron to look like Vin Diesel. You can start small: go for a power walk around your neighbourhood or play with your kids outside. Keep it simple! You can build up to bigger workouts by simply getting more active and moving your body today.

3. Eat right

Did you know that some foods are known to help lower stress? It’s true! That means the food you eat can actually help you to feel less stressed. Keep bananas and low-fat yogurt on hand as quick and easy options because fibre and probiotics help. Enjoy a couple of squares of dark chocolate. Green tea provides a relaxing and beneficial time-out.

Need some nutritional guidance? TELUS Health MyCare offers 50-minute dietitian consults from its app and the comforts of your own home.

4. Learn to leave work at work

When the workday is over, turn off the computer, stop responding to emails, and don’t take calls. If you’re working from home, try to end the day as you would at an office and leave work behind. Even better, close the home office door or throw a towel over your work computer. Out of sight, out of mind!

Head outdoors to give your brain a break and don’t even think about work until it’s time to start the following day. We challenge you to try this for an entire week and see how you feel! I bet you’ll find that you’re just as productive or even more productive at work.

5. Turn technology off

Use simple strategies such as checking the news or getting on social media only once per day. Consider using your spare time to enjoy nature instead of staring at the screen. When you’re tired, it’s easy to mindlessly scroll on your phone, so ditch the phone for 20 minutes and go sit on your balcony, in your backyard or, at a local park and enjoy a break from screens. Your brain will thank you for it.

6. Make time for fun

Nothing says stress relief, like having a bit of fun and sharing a few laughs. Fun can take many forms outdoors and indoors. It may be a bike ride with your buddies, a walk with your partner, quality time with family or friends, or playing a board game. It takes no effort to listen to a podcast or get grooving with some great music. Yeah, shake that rump!!

7. Stop and breathe

We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, so head outside and take a big, deep breath. Taking one to three minutes to pause and focus on slow, relaxed deep breathing is one of the best tools for reducing stress and bringing ourselves back into balance. If heading outdoors is not an option, try using a free app such as Calm or Headspace to guide this process.

Does it get any easier than breathing? I rest my case.

8. Sleep tight

Few activities are easier than getting under the covers and welcoming sleep. Proper shut-eye and cortisol levels go hand in hand. Better sleep means lower stress, so aim to get 7 to 9 hours per night. Create a sleep routine and stick to it. When we choose to go to bed and wake up at set times, we train our minds to be ready for sleep and to get a more restful sleep. A good night’s rest coupled with spending a little bit of time outside every day is an excellent way to feel less stressed.

Have you discovered a great way to send stress packing? Share your tips in the comments below!

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