There’s no denying it, stress is everywhere! Everyone feels stress at certain times of their lives, especially living in a such a busy, constantly evolving world, where we have so many ‘tabs’ open in our brain at any one time. It’s not surprising that so many people are really feeling the negative effects of stress, which is leading to increased sick days off work and many people are struggling to complete everyday tasks as a result. More concerning is the fact that long term stress is now being identified as a significant contributor towards the manifestation of many long- term illnesses, if not managed properly.
What is Stress?
The website www.stress.org.ukdescribes stress far more eloquently than I ever could:
Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.
That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
Stress can actually be good for us – positive stress can give you the ‘fire in your belly’ to achieve goals and complete tasks. it can prepare you for dangerous situations and the automatic stress reaction can get the human body ready to respond quickly if we find ourselves in danger.
Also, it is important to point out that the feeling of stress is subjective, and everyone will feel stress differently, with some people able to deal with it better than others. Some believe that to some extent everyone has the choice how to react to situations and can help themselves maintain better personal management of their stressors. If people take steps to firstly understand stress and their personal triggers, they can then take positive steps to allow them to manage stress better in the future. This could then reduce the potential negative long-term consequences of stress in future years.
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Long term stress could affect the body by:
- increasing blood pressure
- leading to insulin resistance, which could result in Type 2 Diabetes
- increasing your chances of suffering from anxiety; and
- causing long-term inflammation of the body, which could lead to all sorts of health problems later on in life.
I could go on further, but you get my point, that long term stress can cause lasting harmful effects on the body, which can lead to disease and prolonged health issues. This is why it is imperative we try to take some steps to manage our stress levels better now, rather than potentially suffer the consequences in the future.
10 Ways to Help Manage Stress?
How do you manage stress? What toolkit do you have in place? Here are some ideas which may help you to deal with stress better:
- Breathing– there are so many breathing techniques available online but just slow down your breathing to feel instantly calmer. Breathe in for the count of 4 then out for the count 4 which calms down your body’s stress response system. Fill those lungs with fresh air and oxygen and slowly breathe out. Also, you could try the 4-7-8 breathing technique, breathe in for 4, hold for 7, then slowly out for 8, repeat a few times. I find this is a brilliant stress reliever and it is also useful for getting to sleep too.
- Get outside in nature– go for a walk, sit in a park, go to the beach – just get outside! The power of being outside in the fresh air is so important and this is a free stress relief tool which should be used. Just get outside and you should feel less stressed!
- Listen to music, listen to a podcast, read a book or do something creative such as colouring in or crocheting– do something that will help you take your mind off the way you are feeling – really focus on what you are doing and try to take your mind off whatever is stressing you out.
- Eat well– focus on a balanced diet, containing fibre, vegetables, fruit, legumes, fresh fish and healthy fats such as olive oil. Also, try to avoid processed food, refined sugar and alcohol. This is another blog post entirely, but the more you nourish your body with goodness, the more natural energy you will have to be able to deal with stressful situations. As the saying goes, you can’t run on empty! Also, as another saying goes, you got to nourish to flourish!
- Start a gratitude diary– every evening, before bed write down 3 things you are grateful for. The more you realise how much you have in your life, the calmer and more content you should become, the better you will be able to deal with stress.
- Start each morning with a positive affirmation– the more positive self-talk you say to yourself, the calmer your mind will be. This is a strange concept to many, including myself at first, but now I swear by the use of positive affirmations. “I am relaxed and calm” is a good one to start the day with, keep saying it throughout the day, especially when you are feeling under pressure. Affirmations don’t have to be complicated and can be used for anything, not just stress. Another good one is “I am safe” and also “I can feel my tension melting away”. You can make one up which resonates with you personally. The one I used all the time whilst I was setting up my business was “I can do this” and eventually I started to believe it and saw it as the truth rather than just an affirmation! Keep saying it to yourself and your mind will eventually see it as the truth!
- Manage your time better –do you procrastinate? Do you find yourself unproductive when stressed? Write a list each day of the three things you want to achieve and focus on getting those done, it doesn’t matter how small these things seemingly are. Look into using a productivity app, make use of that google calendar, use a planner to plan your day. Look into how you can work smarter, not harder.
- Meditate, meditate, meditate!– Download an app such as ‘Headspace’. There are others out there but the guy who leads the meditations is British and straight talking, and I personally find it easier to follow than some of the more spiritually centred apps. You get 10 sessions for free and they are only 10 minutes each. Get into the habit of meditating for just 1o minutes a day and you should feel less stressed as a result.
- Focus on getting a good night sleep – if you ae struggling with sleep, see my sleep blog for more tips on sleeping. http://kellyzilz.co.uk/general/sleepYou should aim for 6-5-8 hours of sleep a night to allow your body to get the rest it needs to be able to deal with everyday stresses effectively.
- Exercise– for me exercise is the single most important thing for stress relief – it makes sense because when you exercise, endorphins, those little happy hormones are released, making you feel more positive. I personally love Zumba and walking for de-stressing, but any physical activity will do. Even if it’s just for one minute, put that favourite song on and dance around the kitchen…. Go on you know you want to!
- And a bonus 11th way to help you manage stress! Book yourself in for some reflexology! Dr Chatterjee recommends reflexology as a tool to help to manage stress in his book ‘The Stress Solution’. If you’ve had reflexology before, you will know how relaxing it is and how it really helps to calm the mind down. If you are unable to book a reflexology session, here is a great little video demonstrating some hand reflexology moves specifically to help ease stress and tension. Why not try some of the moves out for yourself? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKiQxGylHTs
What to do if it all Gets too Much?
If you are feeling that your stress levels are getting out of control and you’ve taken reasonable steps to reduce your them, please talk to someone about it. Whether it’s at work, at home, school or wherever you are, there is help available. There is no shame in going to your GP or someone you trust and asking for help. Likewise, there are great charities around such as Mind, who have a lot of information and tools available if you need it:
If you are suffering from long term stress, I would also consider reading further books about managing stress through changing your thinking patterns and the book I recommend on this subject is Change Your Thinking CBT by Dr Sarah Edelman. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a massive subject area, but there are many useful tips on how to actually change your thought processes to help you to deal with everyday stress better. It is an interactive book, so you need to do the tasks set, but if your stress levels are getting beyond manageable then you should find this book useful.
The world we live in is stressful, there is no getting away from that. What matters is how we deal with these stresses and knowing when to ask for help if things are getting too much. Knowledge is the key – being able to identify what your personal stressors are is important, and if these stresses cannot be removed from your life, then it is useful to have a toolkit in place, designed to help you manage these stresses better. Find out which stress management tips work best for you and incorporate these into your daily life. If you find these no longer work for you, then try other techniques. Do your research, you know yourself better than anyone else so do what’s best for you! Finally, I cannot recommend the book ‘The Stress Solution’ by Dr Chatterjee enough, and if you would like further reading on stress, it is an excellent book, full of useful advice.
Hope you have found this blog useful, if you have any other tips on stress and how to manage it, I would love to hear from you! Until next month lovelies, catch up soon x