What is stress?
In society today, the word stress is used frequently. We often hear our employers, colleagues, friends, family and even children say they are stressed, but what does it actually mean to be stressed?
Stress in itself is not a bad thing; in fact some stress can be healthy for our mind and body. Our stress response is designed to keep us safe; it allows us to sense danger. When the stress response is switched on, our brain shuts down any unnecessary functions and hormones flood the body to prepare us for the fight or flight. Our stress response was designed to enable us to run away from lions, our lives depended on it. When we did run away from lions, soon after, would retreat to a place of safety to rest and recuperate from the stressful situation we were in. Even now, in the 21st Century, we have the same physiological stress response; but what causes the stress has changed. With hectic and busy lives, our stress response is activated more and more frequently and it isn’t turned off. It starts with frantically getting the kids ready for school, reading an aggressive email as soon as you get into the office, being late to your meeting and then on your way home from work you get stuck in rush hour traffic. We end up with a yo-yo syndrome as our hormonal system gets stressed so often and keeps our bodies in a perpetual state of fight/flight, making us sick.
Being in a state of chronic stress not only changes the size of our brains but it increases the likelihood that we engage in addictive and destructive behaviour. We are more likely to develop both physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, heart disease, obesity, inflammation and cancer in the body. Read on for some useful tips to help our mind and body get less stressed…
1. Try to become more mindful of your body’s signs of stress. When you feel this response encroaching, change your activity, take a break or just simply take a few deep breaths.
2. What do you find stressful? Take some time to work out what is and isn’t helpful for your stress levels, particularly in the workplace. Talk to your manager about this and they may be able to make some changes to help you.
3. Try to become more mindful as you go about your day. Take a look at our recent blog to find out more about this.
4. Regular exercise can be a fantastic stress reliever. With the right exercise programme, exercise can help your body with growth and repair. Be careful, however, not to overstress your body with exercise i.e. don’t run a marathon if you have never done a 5km.
5. Eat and drink correctly. If you aren’t eating and drinking to nourish your body, your body will be in a state of internal stress which magnifies external stress! Reduce your intake of caffeine and drink more water to start reducing the internal stress on your body.
With 21st Century living, it is impossible to completely avoid stress, particularly when major life events or trauma happens. But we can try and reduce the amount of stress we undergo in our everyday life and change how we manage our outlook on stress during difficult times. To reduce the stressful effects of a difficult situation try and reframe or refocus your perception of the situation. This can help you adapt to the situation more positively and allow you to change the situation for the better.