Top ten tips to combat stress and live a calmer life
April may officially be Stress Awareness Month but feeling stressed is something that is a regular occurrence for many of us. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, take heart, there are things you can do to live a calmer life.
Life is full of ups and downs and unfortunately things don’t always go the way we want them to. When we are dealing with stressful situations, we are more likely to suffer the most and for it to affect our mood. When you feel down, every day challenges that you would normally take in your stride tend to have more of an impact and can feel overwhelming.
I see an increased amount of people through my Life Coaching practice that are massively affected by stress.
What is stress? Am I normal?
Stress is normal and everybody at some point experiences feelings of stress. Stress is often triggered by major life changes, such as the death of a loved one, relationship break–ups, financial pressures, expectations from friends, family and/or work, the pressure we put on ourselves and many more.
Of course, we have daily stresses and pressures too, such as housework, paying the bills on time, pressure to perform and keeping friends and family happy. These small stressors can all add up and make a big impact if not properly managed.
What happens to my body?
In times of stress we tense up, our blood pressure increases, our heart rate speeds up, we perspire, our metabolism changes and our breathing rates become shallow which restricts our oxygen flow into our body (oxygen flow into her body is vital for optimal well-being).
The stress response is our body’s way of reacting to perceived threats or danger. During this reactive response, we secrete certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol which are the hormones that cause all those uncomfortable bodily responses. These changes giveour body extra energy and strength to deal with the perceived danger when we need it most which of course is appropriate if we are in Africa and need to run away from a lion! You may have heard this response as being called ‘fight and flight’ mode. However, nowadays this response is activated when that degree of response isnot appropriate.
Top ten tips to tackle stress
There are many things you can do to help reduce your stress levels and get your body and mind feeling calm. Here are some suggested tips to help you:
• Time management: A great way to reduce stress is to plan ahead and manage your time. Learning to prioritise tasks instead of giving everything equal importance can help to take the pressure off and reduce stress significantly.
• Learn to say no: Do you find yourself taking on more than you can handle and juggling many responsibilities? This can leave you feeling overwhelmed, worn out and put upon. Be more selective about what you take on andlearn to say “no” to things that will unnecessarily add to your load.
• Relaxation techniques – deep breathing and mindfulness: Relaxation practices are wonderful stress management systems. Simple exercises like deep breathing can activate your parasympathetic nervous system which controls the relaxation response.
Many successful people use mindfulness to help them alleviate stress and re–gain focus. Mindfulness helps you to focus on what’s happening in the present, slowing down your mind and relaxing your body. Science has shown that mindfulness helps to lower cortisol levels.
• Exercise: Believe it or not exercise is one of the most important activities you can undertake to reduce stress. Exercise lowers the body stress hormones such as cortisol and helps to release endorphins that improve your mood.
• Talk: Talking can significantly reduce stress. Talking things through with someone you trust can help you to feel more supported and you will be more able to find effective solutions to some of your challenges as a result.
• Eat healthy food: Comfort food that is full of fat and sugar may make you feel better momentarily but can worsen your symptoms. Foods that are high in good nutrients can help your body feel energised, improve your mood and reduce your stress response.
• Practice gratitude: For years, research has shown gratitude reduces stress by sending your body into more of a relaxed mode. By writing down at least ten things that you are grateful for at the end of each day, relaxes the mind and body.
• Get plenty of rest: Sleep experts have found that daytime naps can improve many things as well asbrighten your mood and boost memory.
• Take time out: Start to recognise the physical signs your body gives when you are reaching your stress threshold and be sure to take time out. Time out to regroup, to breathe and have a break.
• Ask for help and support as needed: It may feel like you are alone but you never are. If you begin to feel like things are getting on top of you and out of control, seek outside support from a professional or trusted friend.Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
Carolyne Bennett – Life Coach www.carolynebennett.com