Stress. It affects us all, some more than others. It is both good and bad and, yes, we need it! It's not unhealthy to be stressed, in fact we are designed to endure stress from to time as it’s our flight or fight response to protect us from harm. The problem that many of us face now is we are living in a chronic state of stress, this seriously impacts our health and longevity.
Stress comes in 3 forms:
Physical - Too little or too much exercise, injury, or even the form we are most guilty of - SITTING for long periods of time.
Emotional - Work, family, relationships and life all come with ups and downs. How we manage these feelings impacts our health and mental state.
Chemical - Imbalance of chemicals in the body, which in turn affects the body’s ability to function efficiently. The main causes of chemical stress are either internal (diet, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, unnecessary prescription or over the counter medication) or external (environmental pollution, toxic chemicals in cleaning products, etc…).
As much as 80% of all disease and illness is initiated and aggravated by stress. Over the long term, it can increase your chances of developing diseases like diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse and anxiety. It might be impossible to escape adverse stress altogether but there are simple and effective things we can do to minimise to impact of stress long term.
Stress less tips
Studies show that for treating mild-moderate depression, exercise can be as effective as talking therapy and medication.
Exercise effects on mental health include;
The release endorphins and serotonin, the feel-good hormones.
Promotes better sleep, thus more energy throughout the day.
Regular exercise equals a sense of accomplishment as you literally see and feel the improvements.
Exercise with others improves social connection.
Make movement a normal part of your day, with simple habits such as; catching up over a walk, parking further away or even stretching whilst brushing your teeth!
However, there is a caveat! Too much of a good thing does become a bad thing! Keep your exercising to a level where you aren’t over doing it and take time to recover.
2. Breathe deep. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is sometimes referred to as the “brakes” for stress. Stop and take a few deep breaths when you start to feel yourself getting tense or agitated.
Finding 8 hours of quality sleep at night has a huge impact on how you feel mentally - stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. High stress levels can make sleeping hard and can even lead to sleep disorders. At the same time, getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce the effects of stress.
Practising and mastering habits around bedtime will set you up for a better night's rest. Limit caffeine, blue lights from devices and strenuous activities that are designed to keep us awake and alert. Instead calm the mind and body down, have a warm shower, sip on a warm herbal tea, practise stillness and slowing down the breath.
4. Connect with people.
Bottling stressed emotions up is a recipe for disaster. Avoid this by reaching out and connecting with friends, family, loved ones or even a professional. Talking to someone whose opinion you value may help you to see your situation from a more objective perspective.
5. Mess causes stress
Living and working in messy environments places micro stresses on us.
Spend 10 minutes a day to organise your workspace, clean the kitchen and your bathroom. Creating organized spaces gives a sense of order and control that positively influences outlook and gives a sense of calm.
6. Practice gratitude
Take time every day to think about the things you are grateful for. It really does make you realise what's truly important in your life. When we focus on what we value and what brings us joy, we tend to move more of our energy towards these things and feel generally happier overall.
There are many different forms of meditation that can help you become calmer, more energised and relaxed. Meditation can be as simple as sitting still for as little as 5 minutes and focusing on your breath. There are many forms of meditation, such as; walking, movement, laughing and gazing at nature. Find one that feels right for you and make it a daily habit, it will make you less reactive to stressful situations, and more relaxed.
8. Live low tox
The toxic chemicals in household and personal care products is scarily alarming!
These toxins are absorbed into the blood through the skin or inhaled via the mouth or the nose. They can cause a massive stress to the body. The effect is seen in hormonal changes and gene mutations. Becoming educated on what is in our products and swapping to organic, natural, no tox products is so important.
9. Eat clean and fresh
Your body is your temple! What you feed it matters! A diet full of greasy, high sugar, low nutrient food is going to cause stress on your body and mind. Aim to feed your body seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables and where possible buy organic produce.
When trying to make a change we can sometimes go ‘all in’ far too quickly and before you know it you have already given up. Try taking small steps by making a little change a day and then progressing from there. A healthy balance between movement, mindfulness, eating and sleeping are a recipe for less stress.