Psychological Coach Lucy Spicer Shares Her Best Stress-Busting Advice
Posted by Samantha Nice, Mar 28, 2023
Suffering with stress? Feeling overwhelmed? Got a lot on your plate? Unfortunately stress can catch us all out from time to time but if you’re particularly feeling it right now, this advice from physiological coach Lucy Spicer is well worth a read. Here she shares her very best advice for both short term and long term stress…
What Is Stress?
Stress is created when we perceive something to be a threat, activating our sympathetic nervous system and creating a physiological response in our bodies. You may have heard of this before as your fight or flight response. This response produces a rush of stress hormones, including cortisol to surge through our system and can leave us feeling on edge, irritable, dizzy, nauseous and short of breath. This typically manifests for our clients as having difficulty with focussing on tasks, overthinking and finding it hard to make decisions and experiencing conflict in their relationships. It can also show up physiologically as holding tension or pain in their jaw, suffering with headaches and noticing changes to their skin such as dryness, rashes or breakouts.
We all experience stressful moments in everyday life, however, when stress is experienced intensely, or over a prolonged period of time it can impact both our mental and physical health. There are many factors that can contribute to stress, including external factors like your working environment and internal factors like an anxious thinking style.
4 Science-Backed Actions For Short Term Stress Relief
Here are four neuroscientifically rooted methods that can help you to manage and reduce your stress symptoms in the moment…
1. Try Breathwork
Best if your heart is racing, you have butterflies in your stomach or tightness in your chest.
Breathwork is a really quick and effective tool for helping you to handle stressful moments by moving from the threat response of your sympathetic nervous system, to your calming parasympathetic nervous system. Have a read of this study to learn more about how it works.
A simple breathwork practice you can do is closing your eyes, inhaling for the count of 4 and exhaling for the count of 6. To deepen this practice you can imagine yourself breathing in relaxation and breathing out any tension you’re holding onto.
2. Try Self Soothing Contact
Best if you’re feeling overwhelmed or self critical.
Show yourself some love and help to reduce your cortisol response to stress by closing your eyes and placing one hand on your heart and one on your stomach. Focus your attention on the warmth and pressure of your hands. This physical touch works wonders for producing oxytocin and helps you to feel more comforted. Read more about this quick and easy technique here.
3. Try Practising Kindness
Best for overthinkers and those feeling disconnected.
Acts of kindness can help to quieten down the threat response part of our brain called the amygdala. Showing kindness also helps us to feel connected to others and shifts the attention away from yourself. Some of the best ways you can do this are giving compliments, helping others or perhaps doing something good… buying a colleague a coffee, holding the door open or checking in with a loved one. This behaviour releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine which are great for combatting stress. Still not sold? Give this a read.
4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Best for tension and immediate stress relief wherever or whenever.
If you feel uptight and tense, progressive muscle relaxation can be a quick solution. Do this by squeezing your muscles and clenching like a tight ball and then releasing. Repeat this three times and imagine you are letting go of the stress each time you release. This release action is what helps your body to get into a deeper state of relaxation and studies (like this) have shown it physically shifts stress.
4 Science-Backed Actions For Longer Term Stress Relief
Now you’ve mastered the short term solutions, here are four which can help you if you’ve been struggling for a while and are looking to feel better equipped…
1. Try Journaling
Best for deepening your self-awareness.
Regular journaling helps with your ability to respond to stress by supporting you to identify your triggers and then come up with solutions. By creating time to sit down with your thoughts and put pen to paper, you can start to notice your patterns by recognising when you were stressed, what contributed to this and what helped (so that you can repeat this in the future) and helping to stop stress from building. You can start by using these journal prompts: How am I feeling today? What might be the reason(s) I am feeling this way? What can I do to help myself? What can I do next time I notice that I am feeling this way?
2. Try To Lock In A Daily Routine
Best for supporting your overall mental health.
A solid routine is great for helping you keep on top of everyday stress and I’d always recommend prioritising things like good nutrition, movement and sleep. All of these little habits can help to reduce the physiological effects of stress, enhance your ability to manage challenges and improve your overall mood.
3. Try Practising Gratitude
Best for negative thoughts and if you’re prone to comparison.
Being grateful is a really underrated tool for stress as it works to actively train your mind to notice and appreciate the little moments of joy in your everyday life. Start by writing down three positive things that have happened to you that day before bed that you are grateful for. Developing a positive outlook can support you through stressful situations by encouraging you to think more rationally, challenge negative thoughts and have a more balanced perspective.
4. Try And Establish A Support Network
Best for identifying your triggers and opening up.
Whilst there are so many helpful resources about stress online, remember you don’t have to figure it out on your own and it’s important to access support and advice from others. This might be sharing your worries with your friends or loved ones or engaging in longer-term professional support through coaching and/or therapy.
Inside My Wellbeing Toolkit
My own wellbeing toolkit has been built over the years through trying and testing different methods and finding what works best for me. The strategies and products help me to manage stress both in my personal and work life.
I’m a big believer in setting the scene and ensuring my home or work environment feels productive or relaxing. Scent and memory are closely aligned so having fragrances that my mind pairs with certain feelings can really help. I switch up the Essential Oils in my Wellbeing Pod to reflect the mood I am looking for. I love the Perfect Night’s Sleep blend whilst reading before bed.
This is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. Having it by my bedside helps me to stay accountable. It’s great to start the day off on a good note and end it on a high too.
Exercise is great for mental health - particularly stress so I make sure I do some kind of movement every day. At the moment I love to do a quick 15-minute Pilates session in between client sessions.