Hands up if you get stressed out?
Every single one of us gets stressed at some points. There is nothing wrong with a little stress in our lives, we need a certain amount to keep us stimulated and healthy. The problems come when our stress levels are elevated for long periods.
So here’s a better question: “Who feels like they have too much stress in their life, too much of the time?”
This doesn’t mean you are not coping it just means there is too much going on and not enough downtime or recovery.
Our constant of being switched ‘on’ is compounding this as we don’t take the time to restore or rejuvenate ourselves. Stress can be brought on by constant gadget checking, work deadlines, relationship problems, being overwhelmed, feeling a lack of time, just to name a few.
Stress can often be largely self-inflicted: unrealistic personal expectations, unclear boundaries, lack of decisiveness, poor work practices, not dealing with fears, overthinking and worrying all contribute to our stress loads.
So often we know our stress levels are out of control, but we are just too busy to deal with it right now. You just hope that things will calm down or you will stop worrying or feeling anxious.
It is rare for stress levels to just cease to be; it must be taken control of. Before we get into the how here are just some of the reasons why you should consider learning some stress management strategies.
1. Stress Weakens the immune system
When cavemen were under physical threat, their blood supply was diverted away from the immune system and directed towards the muscles etc. to get away from whatever danger presented itself. When you think about it logically you’re not going to worry about picking up a cold or flu when a sabre tooth tiger is bearing down on you So today, when our body perceives a threat (stress), energy is directed away from the immune system thereby making it more susceptible to colds and flu. Overtime this can be catastrophic for our health.
2. Stress causes disease
Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis have been proven to have strong links to elevated stress levels
3. Stress can make you fat
Chronic stress levels mess up your blood sugar levels, cause you to overeat and make poor food choices as well as increasing the bodies tendencies to store fat (mostly in the tummy area)
4. Stress can make you look older
Chronic stress contributes significantly to premature ageing. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that stress shortens telomeres — structures on the end of chromosomes — so that new cells can’t grow as quickly. This leads to the inevitable signs of ageing: wrinkles, weak muscles, poor eyesight, and more
5. Stress can make you depressed
Stress has a direct negative effect on mood. Early initial symptoms of lowered mood can include irritability, sleep disruption and cognitive changes such as impaired concentration. However, the indirect effects of stress are often what causes depression to take hold. If you’re too busy you may skip your exercise class, or stop socialising with friends. Being overstressed may cause you to make mistakes which may make you lose your confidence and reduce your self-worth. Being stressed may also lead you to drinking more alcohol which is a proven mood suppressant.
I could go on all day about the negative effects that stress can have on your health, but our aim today is to give you some tools to deal with your stress levels.
Taking long slow deep breaths can help switch the body from sympathetic mode (accelerator mode) into a more parasympathetic mode (break mode). Anytime you feel yourself getting worked up take 10 slow breaths. Or perhaps set an hourly alarm on your phone to do breathing exercises for 30-60 seconds.
There are two strategies we recommend when using exercise to cope with stress. First of try and do it regularly (daily were possible). Getting your heart rate up regularly will release all those feel good hormones and help your body disperse some of the more negative hormones that creep up when you are stressed.
Secondly – get up and move when you feel stressed out. This is what the flight or fight system was for; you probably have the urge to punch someone or run away when you are stressed, we recommend using the second option as much as possible. Get up and go a walk around the block or do a quick set of press ups and squats. A quick caveat when it comes to exercise, if you are really stressed or have been stressed for a long period high intensity exercise is not recommended as this is just another stressor for the body to deal with
3. Be clear
…around what is important to you and what you are good at so you know what you can easily say yes to and what to say no to. Women in particular are often in a constant dilemma of the work/life/family balancing act. If you are asked to do something that is not in line with your values then really, it’s OK to say no or at least counter with a more favourable option!
4. Practise Yoga
Many people are turned off by yoga, thinking it is for hippies and super flexible people. However, if you use it to be in the moment, tune into the body and just simply breathe you will be amazed at how much better you will feel. Trust me; we should all be doing regular yoga.
5. Sharpen up your work practices.
Time leakages can occur when we dwell on non-productive activities for too long and fail to prioritise. This can leave you time-poor for more important tasks. Always start your day with your most important activities and with a clear focus.
6. Lastly, take time to relax.
So often when you are stressed your downtime is the first thing to go out the window. Over time this will be detrimental and will only contribute to your stress levels. Taking breaks, enjoying your hobbies, meeting friends all help keep you fresh, make you more creative and will improve your mood. Try not to dump your downtime from your schedule.