Stress is pretty unavoidable these days. Your smart phone constantly telling you how many unread emails you need to read and put into action, messages you need to read and respond, your calendar reminding you that if you don’t leave in 5 minutes you will be late for your next appointment! That is all before you have even had the time to catch up on the latest news or even deal with a toddler who did not want their apple cut up!
I know that stress affects people differently and a situation that can be stressful for me is not necessarily stressful for you. Whether something becomes a stressor to you depends on a variety of variables. For example being stuck in traffic when you have a time constraint can be more stressful than when you do not have a time limit.
Our reaction to these stressful situations can also vary depending on your physiological state. Lack of sleep, food and many cups of coffee can heighten stress, whereas a great workout and a big breakfast may buffer it.
Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties. You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. ‘Fight or Flight’ is the release of Adrenalin from two pea-sized glands located above the kidneys (adrenal glands). As soon as the stressful situation is over the heightened responses return to the normal level. If this situation is repeated every day and is almost continuous, the body can get conditioned and respond even when there is no obvious threat by producing the Adrenalin in expectation. The constant release of this stress hormone into the blood can cause and increase your pulse rate, breathing rate, muscular tension and anxiety almost permanently. So when the body tries to rest it cannot.
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.
How you may feel emotionally:-
- Irritable and ‘wound up’
- Anxious or fearful
- Lacking in self esteem
How you may feel mentally:-
- Racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty in making decisions
How you may feel physically:-
- Muscle tension or pain
- sleep problems
- Feeling tired all the time
- Eating too much or too little
- Drinking or smoking more
- Snapping at people
Sometimes it can feel that we are powerless to stressors and that we have no choice but to get stressed; but I believe that we can gain some control by making sure that we manage stress rather than allowing stress to manage us.
Here are some ways that I have reduced stress in my life:-
1. Healthy lifestyle
A healthy balanced diet and increasing my Cardio exercise each week has not only provided me with more energy but I feel that it has also built up my coping resilience. Not only has my physical shape improved but I also feel that I can work smarter and process information a lot better and therefore able to look at a potential stressful situation in a different way.
I love the saying ‘If you never say No, then what is your Yes worth’. Sometimes we’re stressed out because of the sheer volume of things we’re involved in. When you’re overwhelmed, even fun things lose their appeal and become stressors. To do that, consider all the things you’re involved in and ask yourself (1) Am I doing things that give my life meaning? (2) Am I doing the right amount of things?
Other questions that may provide you with good insight: “When you wake up in the morning, do you look forward to what’s on your plate? Are you excited to start the day? Or do you dread getting out of bed because you don’t have any energy?
I see a lot of people who are so stressed that they don’t know what the absence of stress or a calm mind feels like. I see such a difference in people when they start to incorporate relaxation into their life.
Mindfulness is when you maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Learning to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without self-criticism allows us to accept our experiences as they are, rather than how we want them to be. This way of thinking has helped me to respond skillfully to stress, instead of reacting through the autopilot of habits and conditioning.
Do contact your local doctor if you find your self completely overwhelmed by how you may be feeling.
Mind Infoline – open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm (except for bank holidays).
Do contact me if you would like to discuss any of the helpful tips above and I can help you reduce your current stress load.
(2) The Integrated Health Bible, Dr Mosaraf Ali
(3) Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author
All material provided on carolinedearlove.co.uk web site is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your Doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program.