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It’s crunch time for the PM. Theresa May revealed this weekend that she deals with the chaos of Brexit by stress-eating peanut butter on toast — or straight from the jar.
Apparently, it’s a common calming tactic: Michelle Obama opened her talk at the Southbank Centre last week by talking about her love of peanut butter and BBC producer Dino Sofos tweeted that he also keeps an emergency tub “within easy reach” for stressful situations.
Peanut butter fan or not, we all need our coping mechanisms in this time of high Br-anxiety. From desk meditation to power dressing, here are the top hacks for managing your stress levels.
Labelling your emotion decreases its impact by 20 per cent, according to recent research, so be self-aware: if you know you’re someone who gets stressed a lot, admit it to yourself — and your colleagues. Labelling your response is important too, says Cheryl Isaacs, a chartered psychologist and neuro-diversity expert from OPM Consulting in Wandsworth. Recognise if you’re a personaliser (“This always happens to me”) or a catastrophiser (“I’m going to lose my job”): giving it a name changes the physical response in your brain, reducing levels of stress hormone cortisol by up to 15 per cent.
Stress is often related to feeling overwhelmed, so take Gareth Southgate’s advice and “own the process”. Owning it all comes down to attitude, so dress to win, says Isaacs. Boris Johnson got a haircut this weekend as he hinted at a leadership bid. Find yourself a go-to power outfit for bossing stressful days and, if you’re stuck for ideas, take a leaf out of Johnson’s book and get a power trim.
If it’s Brexit that’s stressing you out, limit your exposure to it, says Isaacs. Don’t refuse to watch the news but break it up into healthy doses: turn off BBC News notifications and set yourself times of day to scroll through Twitter. If you like to watch the news before bed, she suggests doing a more positive activity, such as reading a book. If you missed Obama’s talk last week, try her book, Becoming, for an inspiring read.
Stress is easier to deal with in the morning, according to a new study by Japan’s Hokkaido University. The neurologist Dr Brandon Peters suggests scheduling in switch-off time for the evening and setting aside “scheduled worry time”. It might sound counterintuitive but apparently addressing your stress triggers helps to manage them. In the mornings, try to go into work early and start by tackling that big task you’ve been putting off for some time. The founder of Propercorn, Cassandra Stavrou, calls this technique “swallowing the frog” and says it’s been key to her success.
If you’re not a yogi, sitting cross-legged on the floor can stress you out further, but you don’t have to subscribe to the ideas around it in order to be mindful. Try what Isaacs calls “desk meditation”: when you arrive at work, take 10 minutes to think about the day ahead and three tasks you want to achieve. “It’s focused meditation, but it’s achieving the same thing: calming you down, reducing stresses and re-engaging the working memory.” Namaste.
Hack your breathing
Entrepreneur and TV presenter Poppy Jamie recommends a breathing technique called “belly breath” if you’re in a stressful situation or tense meeting: essentially, this means “breathing with your stomach rather than your shoulders”. There’s a tutorial on her new mindfulness app, Happy Not Perfect, while London breath coach Stuart Sandeman teaches his clients a revolutionary practice called Transformational Breath at his clinic in Harley Street and pop-ups at Blok gym. He says it’ll help you calm down, energise before a big meeting and sleep better in just 21 days.
A recent study by Cardiff University found chewing to be an effective form of stress reduction. But don’t chew half-heartedly: according to another study, it has to be vigorous. Make sure you’re stocked up on chewing gum for stressful days or follow the PM’s lead and invest in a handy pot of peanut butter — or three. Sofos recommends Meridian Foods’ Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter. Not only will it satisfy your fatty, high-calorie food cravings but it also contains beta-sitosterol, a specific compound that’s been found to fight the effects of stress.
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