Look after your mind, body and soul to reduce your stress. Stress can feel like the ‘norm’ for many of us nowadays. In fact most of us are so used to low-mid grade stress, we don’t even recognise it.
It is not until we are faced with a severely stressful situation, we realise our stress bucket is almost full to capacity.
Financial worry, health concerns, relationship issues, and work, can all contribute to us feeling stressed. Whilst we may feel like we are ok, our bodies are often telling us we are not.
Stress can show up as digestive issues, skin problems, hair loss, hormonal imbalances, food cravings, alcohol and caffeine reliance and trouble sleeping. And of course these can all lead to more stress, creating a vicious cycle.
Stress maintenance is key to surviving the cascade of high cortisol created by continuous stress.
Below is a guide to help you deal with stress more effectively.
Choose one action out of each category this week and start to help yourself feel more relaxed.
Sleep more. If you are a midnight owl try to gradually push your bedtime back by 15 minutes each night and wind down 30 minutes before (no devices or stressful conversations). Once you have done this, try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Need 8 hours? Make sure you get it.
Move more. Physical activity can increase the production of endorphins (your brains 'feel-good' neurotransmitters).
Relax your muscles. When we are stressed our muscles are naturally tense. Being mindful of relaxing your body when stressed can really help. The breathing suggestion below is a great way of doing this or regular massages.
Carry out simple breathing exercises. There are many exercises out there, but one of our favourites is the 4-7-8. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of 8.
Listen to music or sing. Playing some of your favourite music can be a great stress relief and singing can release stored muscle tension and decreases the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in your blood.
Have regular magnesium salt baths. Magnesium increases GABA levels which produces a calming effect and restricts the release of stress hormones.
Make sure you are having enough of the right nutrients like zinc, magnesium, protein, healthy fats and fibre in your diet. Eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting a wide range of essential nutrients and maintain regular bowel movements.
Set healthy habits such as regular exercise, meditation, connection with others, try yoga, regular bedtime etc.
Talk about your stresses or write them down. Keeping your stress under wraps does not help. Vocalising them or writing them down is cathartic and will help to reduce and recognise what your stressors are.
Prioritise your time – write lists!
Ask for help. Fortunately we are now living in a time where it is ok to ask for help or say we we are struggling. Whilst it might not come naturally for some, try it next time you are stressed - it might just be the release you need.
Break it down. Often things seem overwhelming, so start to break them down into bite size chunks.
Give mindfulness a go if you haven’t already. Mindfulness influences two different stress pathways in the brain, changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation (Gu et al. 2015)
Say “No” more often. The idea that we cannot say no is a stubborn thought pattern. Saying no helps you establish healthy boundaries and enables others to have clarity about what they might expect from you.
Listen to your body and rest or stop if you need to. Recognise when you’re at 80% capacity so you don’t burn out. It's safe to say we just 'get on' with things most of the time and rarely put 'downtime' in our diaries. Listening to our body is a skill which we should all make a conscious effort to do.
Take a social media detox. Social media use can activate the brain's reward centre by releasing dopamine. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments (Karim et al. 2020). Take regular time out and set boundaries.
Make one small change every week. If you feel life is stressing you out, start to make changes. Make them small so it does not add to the stress by doing them!
Health Coaches help people deal with stress in their lives, by making suggestions such as the ones above. There is never a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so they will always suggest choosing a few that work for their client so as not to fill their stress bucket even more!
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