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Under pressure

Top expert tips to beat stress, anxiety and burnout

Stress levels have been at a constant high since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. And as we find ourselves living in a 24-hour “always on” culture, it can be extremely difficult to switch off and relax. Prolonged stress and anxiety can most certainly take a toll on our physical and mental health.

“Working too hard and not focusing on self-care is a recipe for stress, overwhelm and burnout,” says Ify Akpuaka, a qualified nutritional therapist and yoga teacher ( “When you are busy and stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which switches on the sympathetic nervous system. Through a number of glands and organs, it causes your heart to beat faster, blood to pump more vigorously, and breath to come faster. Energy is diverted from digestion and sent to muscles and the brain to prepare to meet the perceived threat. These changes help to survive short periods of stress but become harmful when they continue.” This is why it’s essential to find ways to tackle stress and prevent it from escalating before it leads to burnout and ill health. Here are some tips, tricks and strategies to stop stress from taking over your life.

Focus on your breathing

Richard Brook, a holistic expert, founder of, and author of new book, Understanding Human Nature: A User’s Guide to Life, suggests the following technique. He says: “When tension arises, place your left hand on your navel and right hand under your collar bones and allow the breath to deeply fill the interior of the body from the belly to the top of the lungs. Continue this for one minute. Your breath is your best friend when it comes to stress management. Notice what each situation you engage with does to your breathing pattern. Then you have a choice to consciously relax, or to notice if it’s the situation itself that is consistently causing undue tension – and decide if it’s best to endure it or change it.”

Practise meditation

“When worried and stressed, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure and balance your mind and body,” says Martin Preston, an addiction specialist at Delamere Health ( “Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress, soften anxiety and improve your mental wellbeing. Taking time to relax the mind with meditation gives you the space to separate your energy, attention and emotions.”

Take some B vitamins

“B vitamins are depleted during times of stress so it may be beneficial to get these in your diet or via supplementation,” says Shona Wilkinson, a registered consultant nutritionist with Nutrigums ( “They help the body convert food into energy and create new blood cells and maintain healthy skin and brain cells.”

Top up your magnesium levels

“Magnesium is known as ‘natures relaxant’, assisting with the physical signs of stress,” explains Shona Wilkinson. “It can ease the cramping of muscles and increases Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) a chemical made in the brain, which encourages relaxation as well as sleep. Vegetables such as broccoli include magnesium, vitamin C and folate – all proven vitamins to help beat stress.”

Write down your worries

“Writing can help to boost positive emotions and reduce worries and anxiety, according to research from the British Journal of Health Psychology,” says Martin Preston. “Spending a total of 20 minutes per day writing about positive experiences can improve your physical and psychological health. The aim is to find the positive in worrying situations, to reduce stress, tension and built-up anger. Start by thinking of the thing that makes you feel worried and begin writing about the positives you can take from the experience.”

Reach out to others

“Reaching out to family and friends for help and support is crucial when coping with worry burnout,” says Martin Preston. “Socialisation increases a hormone within our bodies that can decrease levels of anxiety and make us feel more confident in our ability to deal with stress. Limited social support has been linked to increased levels of depression and loneliness and has been proven to alter brain function and increase the risk of alcohol use, drug abuse, depression and suicide. Social interactions with family and friends play a crucial role in how you function on a daily basis.”

Set your boundaries

“Whilst stressful situations can’t be avoided, they can be managed over time,” says Kate Montague, a tutor at RADA Business ( “Different strategies work for different people, so it’s best to find what works well for you. When in work, there are steps you can take to set boundaries and expectations. For example, give your to-do list a reality-check. Assess what you can and cannot control. It can feel freeing even to just acknowledge what is realistically achievable in a day. Also, redefine your sense of success. Allow yourself space for creative expression, and practise saying ‘no’ to things that you are not able to take on. And choose a sustainable pace. Maintaining work/life balance is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Read a book

Research has suggested that there is a significant connection between reading and stress reduction. Jonella, a book curator at Wob ( explains: “The University of Sussex found that reading a book reduced stress levels by 68 per cent, outperforming other activities like going for a walk or having a cup of tea. Researcher and cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis explained that this is because sustained reading offers the chance to be engrossed in the author’s imagination and enter an altered state of consciousness that relaxes the brain. The study also found that just six minutes of reading (in silence) was needed for the subject to slow the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.”

Avoid food triggers

“Food can be one of your biggest allies (or indeed enemies) when it comes to your stress levels,” say the experts at Vitl ( “Sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and smoking are all typically well known for spiking stress (both on a cell and a mental level); meaning increased oxidative stress of our cells, more mood swings, greater stress, and an overall stressed-out body and mind.”

Try some omega-3

“A study conducted by a team of researchers in 2019 found that taking 2.5g of omega-3 (or 340g to 425g of salmon) can reduce stress by more than 20 per cent,” say the experts at Vitl. “The omega-3 in salmon can reduce inflammation and promote healthy blood flow, both of which are compromised if you’re suffering from chronic stress.”

Take a digital break

“In this time of rage tweets, cyber-bullying and bad news, give yourself a break from the negativity,” says Dr Bradley Nelson, a holistic physician and author of The Emotion Code (

“If you feel worry, tension, apprehension, or anger building as you surf your news feed, take that as a sign you need to disconnect for a bit. Go for a walk, read something uplifting or spend a few minutes connecting with someone you love to break the cycle of stress.”

Focus on one thing

“Choose a project, errand, or activity and do only that,” says Dr Bradley Nelson. “Trying to do too many things at once and pushing too hard on multiple tasks might compromise the quality of everything you manage to get done. Concentrating on a single task may give your brain a break.”

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