Stress and how to manage it
Offering you advice and coping mechanisms
Stress. A word we throw about often. It can work wonders for those needing to hand in work to meet a deadline or carry a team through a game of competitive sport. But when not managed properly it can lead to overwhelm, burn-out and more seriously, be detrimental to our health.
In fact, it’s estimated that “75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments or complaints”!
So, how exactly can we manage it?
To manage it, we first need to understand it.
Stressful situations crop up in everyone’s lives, from job stresses to financial worry. When these things happen, and they always do, our body has a physical reaction.
This includes the release of an influx of hormones including cortisol which can induce several issues including fatigue, irritability, sexual dysfunction, and trouble sleeping. Cortisol is also responsible for cravings, drawing us to make decisions based on comfort which often leads to unhealthy choices. The consumption of extra calories can lead to visceral fat which can, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and insulin resistance.
With most of us flooded in different responsibilities, our stress systems are activated repeatedly for a prolonged amount of time, eventually making it harder to shut off.
This can lead to chronic stress which can induce further implications including the shrinking of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for the regulation of behaviours such as:
- Social interaction
Through the dampening of some immune cell functions over time, we can also be made more susceptible to infections and slow heal rates. Even more serious: problems like depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Whilst we can’t determine when stressful situations are going to happen, we do have control over how we deal with them when they do and even reverse negative effects. Here is a list of just some coping strategies for stress:
- Keeping active is one of the most effective ways to slow our response to stress. Implement regular aerobic exercise; walking or even simple stretches can reduce levels of stress hormones and stimulate the production of endorphins – the body’s natural mood elevators!
- Using our senses – looking through images, listening to music or even hugging a pet can reduce stress levels. Try this when a stressful situation occurs to reduce your immediate reaction and counteract with relaxation techniques that soothe such as yoga, massage, and breathwork.
- Time management – simple, but prioritising tasks helps us to manage commitments and reduce procrastination that can end up leading to stress.
- Pleasurable activities like sharing time with friends can distract intrusive feelings and reinforce our reasons for being happy.
- Sleep! Getting 7-9 hours a night is perhaps one of the most fundamental factors that gives us rest and allows our bodies processes to function normally.
- Even something as simple as taking time out of each day to breathe deeply and shift your attention to the here and now can relax us, make us feel a sense of oneness and even increase the size of the hippocampus which improves memory.
Some of these options might seem simple to some, yet overwhelming to others.
Slowly implement little things that you think are achievable for you and see how they have an impact. Another top tip is to use a notepad to write morning pages – jot down how you feel with a plan for the day each morning. Trust me – it’s amazing what a difference this makes to clearing your mind, processing emotions and unleashing creativity for the day ahead!
Another sure-fire way of dealing with stress is breathing exercises – click the link to read our Places Pointers: 11 Benefits of Breathing Exercises.
Make a note of what works for you and if you’re feeling down, remember to try to process it and manage it in your own foolproof way to minimise its effects and prevent more serious problems.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with chronic stress and mental health, listen without judgement, find out what might help them and reassure them that there are resources available.
Note to reader – this information is to be followed as advice to contribute toward and assist with a healthy lifestyle. Please do not be discouraged if any of the information mentioned does not work for you. Everyone is different and this is merely to accept as a guide which has impacted others.