Beat the Stress—Before It Gets the Best of You

By the SMU Social Media Team

According to a wellness survey by global health service company Cigna, Singaporean workers are among the most stressed worldwide. A whopping 92 per cent of Singaporeans surveyed said they were stressed from work, which was higher than the global average of 84 per cent.

Sources of stress can come from anywhere—work, school or your personal life. And it often just seems impossible to eradicate these stresses from our lives. While we may not be able to remove ourselves completely from stressful situations, it doesn’t mean we that we’re completely helpless either.

Don’t let stress run your life. Here are some tips we’ve put together to help you manage your stress levels:


Keep an exercise routine



Studies have shown that when you exercise, your body produces endorphins—the feel-good hormones that boost your mood while reducing stress levels. Whether you prefer to hit the gym for a full-on high-intensity circuit sesh or would rather wind down at a slow-paced Yin yoga class, keeping a regular exercise routine is a great stress-buster.





Feeling anxious about looming deadlines? Ohm your way to a relaxed state of mind. The best part about meditation is that it requires minimal effort—all you need is a quiet space and just 10 minutes of your time.

Simply sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes and clear your mind by focusing on a single thought or your breath. Meditate at the end of the day to relax and let go of the stresses of the day. If you need some help getting into a routine, try out some mindfulness and meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace.

Besides managing anxiety, this mind-calming practice can also help fight fatigue and insomnia—which leads to the next point: get more shuteye.


Get more shuteye



While it’s recommended that adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep a day, many of us fall short of this magic number. From late-night cram sessions at the library to staying out for post-examination celebratory drinks, it’s not difficult to see why many of us have sleep debts.

Sleep deprivation can cause emotional and physical stress, as it impairs both cognitive and motor skills. To ensure you meet the requisite hours of quality shuteye, try to get into a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Also, avoid watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds at least half an hour before you turn in for the night.


Reduce your caffeine intake



Many of us profess that we can’t function without our daily cuppa. While a moderate intake of caffeine has been shown to increase mental alertness and focus, high doses of caffeine can lead to elevated levels of cortisol—the hormone associated with stress. In addition, caffeine may stay in the system for eight or more hours, which can disrupt your sleep routine if taken in the evening. So think twice before you reach for that fourth cup of coffee (not forgetting teas, cola and energy drinks which also contain caffeine). Swap it for some calming chamomile instead!


Increase intake of stress-reducing foods



Hands up if you’ve polished off a whole pack of chips or a pint of decadent ice cream in a sitting after a particularly stressful day. Many of us turn to food for comfort and the good thing is food can actually ease the stress and calm frazzled nerves—if you pick the right ones.

To banish the stress, consider increasing your intake of potassium. Some of the best sources are fresh leafy greens, and fruits such as avocados and bananas. Good fats such as omega-3 fatty acids—which can be found in salmon, tuna and sardines—also help to manage adrenaline levels to keep you calm and collected.

Vegetarians and vegans may opt for seeds and nuts from a wide selection including flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds to pistachios, walnuts, and almonds, for a pick-me-up dose of omega-3 fatty acids and stress-reducing magnesium.