Are there days where you feel like too many people are counting on you or that you have too much on your plate?
Did you just hit ‘send’ on a fraudulently cheery email when deep down you just want to throw a massive tantrum or burst into tears?
Yes of course there are times when we ALL over commit; the trick to combatting stress however is making sure that the cycle of stress is not “unrelenting.” Stress has a tendency to creep up on us and pretty soon this adrenaline high can feel “normal.” True, small amounts of stress can help increase our alertness and focus to meet challenging situations, stress sustained over a long period of time however can have a severely damaging affect on our health, our emotional state, our relationships, work, productivity and general enjoyment of life.
In fact the word is that for a “healthy, happy, uber long life” we need to develop the habit of recognising when we are turning everything into a “mountain” rather than a do-able “molehill” and to take action to break the stress cycle. For a lot of people stress is not only a constant “kill joy” – it is unyielding and all consuming. So to DRILL HOME the importance of making time to de-stress folks in this post we’ve outlined:
Why We Want To Avoid Stress AND 10 Great Ways to Minimize stress in your life.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STRESS and WHY WE WANT TO AVOID IT.
• When faced with a challenging or dangerous situation the body’s defenses automatically kick into high gear in a process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, all three are common stress responses. Allow me to break this down for you…
Fight: You become heated and over-emotional when faced with stressful situations.
Flight: Pulling away, shutting off and avoiding the task at hand.
Freeze: A feeling of being “stuck” or “frozen” under pressure.
Which one are you?
• Stress can also contribute to health issues such as irritability, lack of concentration, ongoing headaches, muscle tension, shortness of breath, nerve irritation and fatigue.
• Long term stress has been linked to illnesses such as Skin Conditions, Asthma, Fatigue, Anxiety, Depression, Digestive Issues, High Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, Heart Attack and Infertility.
• Ongoing stress speeds up the aging process, both internally (effecting the body’s immune and nervous system) and externally.
• Stress is listed as one of the main contributing factors to both Depression and Anxiety disorders.
• 1 in 4 adults experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
• Antidepressant prescribing has risen nearly 400% since 1988, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 now takes an antidepressant.
• Family issues remain the leading sources of stress for women while the leading source of stress for men was issues related to personal finance.
So, now you know that facts what can we do to lower our stress levels?
10 Great Ways to Minimize Stress in Your Life!
1. Make the first half hour in the day “About You”:
Prioritizing ourselves above and beyond all of our demands is one of the best remedies for stress. You may wish to work on your goals, read and inspiring book, meditate or listen to an inspiring podcast. Whatever you decide when you lay your head down at night and review your day there’s a feeling of pride that sweeps over you for investing in yourself and your future self – ahead of everything else.
Nervous about adding another half an hour to your day? Trust me, try it for a month and see how you start feeling excited and passionate about your future.
2. Cut yourself some slack:
We can only do our best. Most of us are juggling work and family commitments which is a constant struggle so quit being so hard on yourself.
Studies show that people who are self-compassionate are happier, more optimistic, and less anxious and depressed. That’s probably not surprising. But here’s the kicker: they are more successful, too. Most of us believe that we need to be hard on ourselves to perform at our best, but it turns out that’s 100 percent wrong. A dose of self-compassion when things are at their most difficult can reduce your stress and improve your performance, by making it easier to learn from your mistakes.
3. Chiropractic care:
Regular Chiropractic Adjustments can be extremely beneficial to people suffering from ongoing stress. Adjustments remove spinal nerve irritation, help to improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure and release muscle tension, which helps the body to return to a more balanced, relaxed state. These changes may be enough, in many cases, to convince the brain to turn off the fight or flight response resulting in you feeling less pressure. In my second post, “Chiropractic and Stress – This is Monumental!!” I have some great research that explains further how adjustments specifically help the body combat stress. Click through to read.
4. Remember the “Big Picture”, Prioritise and Delegate.
Anything you need or want to do can be thought of in more than one way. For instance, “exercising” can be described in Big Picture terms, like “getting healthier” — the why of exercising — or it can be described in with painful terms such as, “running another two kilometers” — the how of exercising. Holding a clear vision helps us commit to beneficial rituals that otherwise seem mindlessly habitual.
Thinking “Big Picture” about the work is also helpful. It can be very energising in the face of stress and challenge, because you are linking one task, something that may not seem that important to your bigger vision. Considering that extra hour at work at the end of an exhausting day as “helping my career” rather than “answering emails for 60 more minutes,” this helps us stay focused and go the hard yards.
Consider your top priorities in the day ahead, write them down and tackle those items first. Wherever possible in your day and in life in general delegate tasks that you don’t necessarily need to spend your time doing if your skills can be put to better use.
5. Rely on routines:
If I ask you to name the major causes of stress in your work life, you would probably say things like deadlines, a heavy workload, financial commitments. You probably wouldn’t say, “having to make so many decisions,” because most people aren’t aware that this can be a pervasive cause of stress in their lives.
Every time you have to make a decision — whether it’s considering what to wear, what to eat, about hiring a new employee, about when to schedule a meeting — you create a state of mental tension that is, in fact, stressful.
The solution is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make by planning ahead or using routines. If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day. Have a routine for preparing for your day in the morning, and packing up to go home at night. Exercise at the same time each day, preplan your meals and groceries, schedule your free time etc. SURE this sounds anal and perhaps you’d rather be spontaneous seven days a week and fly by the seat of your pants – what I know from personal experience (of doing this and not doing this) and through studying leaders who run large or multiple businesses is that they create simple week day routines that build efficiency and dramatically reduce their experience of stress.
6. Regular Exercise:
Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. Physical activity assists with the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins. You may have heard of a ‘runners high’, endorphins pumping through your system are what actually cause this to occur. Regular exercise also relieves tension and is essentially meditation in motion.
While exercising your mind is usually focused on the activity, which takes your mind away from what is causing you to feel stressed, resulting in you feeling more relaxed. It also assists with sleep, which can sometimes be interrupted or prevented by stress and worry. When you sleep better your body functions more effectively so you may feel less overwhelmed when it comes to handling daily tasks. Last but not least exercise simply makes you feel better about yourself. It is a known confidence booster and even as little as 15 minutes of exercise per day can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety disorders.
7. Healthy diet and lifestyle:
Eating nutrient-rich food is also a useful tool when dealing with stress management. Firstly, there are some foods that are known to aggravate and increase stress, this a list of foods you should avoid or limit your intake of when feeling overwhelmed:
- Tea, coffee, energy drinks. Cut down on the “pick me up” beverages if you’re stressed and stick to one coffee or caffeinated drink a day.
- Fast foods, foods high in saturated and trans fats
- Butter, cheese
- Meat and shellfish
- Soda, soft drinks and chocolate drinks
Now for the foods you shouldn’t avoid! Fresh fruit and vegetables provide an array of vitamins and minerals that are great for reducing stress. Providing your body with the nutrition it needs to thrive will make you feel and function better throughout the day, thus improving your mental state. In particular, Calcium is great and essential for maintaining well functioning nerve impulses. Herbal items such as Dandelion, Chamomile, Passion Flower and Lavender will relax both the body and mind providing a soothing effect.
Interestingly high-fibre, carbohydrate-rich foods. cause the brain to produce more serotonin, which is a hormone that helps us relax. The problem is none of us want to eat too many of these carbs, every so often is fine but if you’re a stress head 24/7 then be mindful that when your body is craving more toast, bread and pasta that you need to make healthier choices to break this cycle.
OH and if you’re smoking as a stress reliever – STOP THAT, no seriously stop that! Not only is it so uncool smoking will kill you quicker then the stress you’re trying to avoid. Plus it’s way unattractive.
A study published in March 2013, in the Journal of Endocrinology, shed some light on the physiological mechanisms behind acupuncture’s beneficial effects on stress. The study examined the effect of acupuncture on rats subjected to the stressful experience of cold exposure for one hour daily for ten days. Rats treated with acupuncture prior to the 10-day study period had significantly lower stress hormones (ACTH and cortisol) at the end of the 10 days than rats not treated with acupuncture. Acupuncture helped the study rats to cope better with stress. Human bodies have the same type of response to the experience of stress with most of us claiming to feel more balanced, relaxed and peaceful after a session of Acupuncture.
Meditation can give you a sense of calm and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. The best part is, these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends, Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day giving you a clearer mind-set which can positively impact the way you deal with stressful situations.
10. Breathing exercises:
Practicing deep breathing when you feel overwhelmed can be beneficial. It may allow you to focus, think clearly and the motion of deep breathing relaxes your body and balanced your mind.
And a bonus tip – #11. Listening to music:
The soothing power of music is well established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool. When things are getting a little too much, chuck your headphones in and throw on your favourite tune, this will help increase your mood allowing you to de-stress.
I encourage you to implement the above into your life and would love to hear your thoughts on how you feel it impacted your stress levels.
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Yours in Health,
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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Want to learn more about how to live a healthy lifestyle? For more health related information, please see Well Adjusted Babies 2nd Edition.