• When was the last time you did something for the first time?
  • What do you do in your ‘me-time’?
  • Do you even have any ‘me-time’

Here, red10’s Lisa Smith stresses the importance of having fun, the benefit of trying new things and (literally) switching off.

This article is part of red10‘s Wellbeing Wheel.

Ask us about our Wellbeing Coaching and Wellbeing Masterclass.

red10 is not providing psychological or medical advice. Our Wellbeing Wheel in no way replaces sound treatment from a licensed healthcare provider.

Stressful Modern Lifestyle

Cortisol is one of our principle stress-response hormones.

Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we need a cortisol and adrenaline surge when we are about to tackle a tricky situation head-on.

However, humans are designed to deal with stress in short sharp bursts; when we endure stress for long periods it becomes a problem. Cortisol activates our sympathetic nervous system as part of our fight-or-flight response.

The problem with our busy, modern lifestyle is that many people are in this heightened state much of the time.

Heart-rate quickens

Lungs widen

Muscles contract

Pupils dilate

This is just as they would (and should) if you stepped on a snake!

Your body prepares you to RUN from danger.

Energy is diverted away from important body processes such as digestion, as this is not necessary when you are in imminent danger. This is one of the reasons why chronic stress can make you fat.

It doesn’t end there…

When you step on a snake your immune system is also put into an emergency state, in case the snake actually bites you. This immune response is inflammation, and again, we are not supposed to be in this state for extended periods. Chronic inflammation underpins almost all major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even depression.

I could go on to discuss stress and the gut, stress and menopause, it’s hugely detrimental to our health.

Before you give up…

We can manage this response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system or our ‘rest-and-digest’ response. This can be achieved with breathing practices alone, yet it’s better and more sustained with lifestyle adjustments.

Relaxing the body and mind, and working with the breath, releases digestive enzymes, slows our heart rate and softens our muscles. Then, we have half a chance to digest our food appropriately and sleep soundly.


Give yourself permission to relax, every single day, for at least 15 minutes. Be selfish.

  • Buy a coffee and drink it in the cafe
  • Read a book or a magazine
  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Dance
  • Have a bath
  • Sing
  • Play an instrument
  • Sit on a park bench
  • Go for a walk
  • Do some gardening
  • 15 minutes of Yoga, Tai Chi
  • 15-minute breathing practice or meditation – the Calm app is very good


Do not use your smartphone tablet or computer while you are doing this. See the red10 Wellbeing Technology Article for more information.

Don’t feel guilty about it. This is very important if you are over-worked and feeling stressed.

Do Something New

Neuroscientists at the University of Southern California conducted a study that showed the brain gets a fix from learning something new. “The ‘click’ of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances,” said Professor Irving Biederman who headed the study.

This is why gardening is so good, you can keep learning how to grow new things. Learn to crochet, play an instrument, cook a new recipe – anything that will leave you with a hit from doing something new.

What’s The Most Important Thing?

The most important thing is that you literally give yourself a break.

Whatever you decide to do, do it as an act of deep warm friendship towards yourself.

Commit to it – love yourself as you would another.