Do you get those Timehop or On This Day photo reminders on your phone or Facebook? I do. Today’s one struck a real cord with me. It was a reminder of a fairly stressful day a couple of years ago when my youngest was ill in hospital. You know dear reader, there is one thing we all have in common. At some point we will all have experienced stress in some way shape or form. Where we differ is the level of stress we encounter, how we respond to it and the effect it has on our bodies.
What is stress?
A little bit of stress can be good for your body and is a normal part of life. Not often you might read that sentence is it?Stress in its basic form is a natural response from our body physically, emotionally and mentally to deal with everyday challenges. Our clever bodies release hormones as they respond to stress. These hormones increase both our heart and breathing rates, which in turn help us be more alert and better respond to the challenges by getting more oxygen to our brain. Yeah. Sounds good so far.
What triggers stress?
Your body’s fight or flight response can be triggered at any point during the day in both positive and negative situations. Your work, pressure at home, a new job, athletics challenge, illness, daily commute, death of a loved one, breakdown in a relationship, pregnancy, losing your job, retirement or an injury. These stress triggers will hopefully only effect your body in the short-term.
It is when stress is triggered and is maintained over a longer period of time, without relief, that it can cause some health issues. This is when the negative effects take place. Instead of responding better to situations you may experience symptoms including
- High blood pressure
- Forgetfulness or poor concentration
- Lower immunity
- Lack of energy, exhaustion or lack of motivation
- Lack of appetite, heartburn, bloating or digestion Issues
- Sleep Issues
- Back pain
- Irregular periods or erectile dysfunction
- Short Temper
Wowser, long-term stress really does not play nicely with our bodies!
What is your stress size?
The truth is that stress affects us all differently. In my work life, for example I have always thrived on a little stress. It has always helped me reach my targets successfully. Two years ago, however, after way too many different challenges hit me at the same, I noticed how stress was affecting me for the worse. I had stopped thriving and was purely surviving.
My sleep patterns were awful, my back issues reached crisis point, my low blood pressure was now creeping up on the higher side. Soon followed by migraines, lack of appetite and my stomach taking on this rock solid shape akin to looking about 6 months pregnant. Hmmm… delightful. I began to call it my stress size. For me a lot of the challenging situations were ones that I had no control over and frustratingly could not remove myself from. I needed to be there for others before I could be there for myself. Rather than running away from the situation or ignoring it, I started to look for different ways to help relieve some of my stress. .
What can I do to help relieve stress?
In our modern-day life stress has become a bit of an expected norm, in fact it in some industries it is a bit of a barometer of success. That being said there is often a fine line between super busy and burned out. A little stress is ok …. burned out is not. Here are some great ways that helped me naturally reduce my stress levels.
This was one area I noticed a big change. My dress size had increased so much that I could have been perceived as comfort eating or heavily pregnant. This was further from the truth. I had in fact lost most of my appetite. I introduced more fermented products in my daily meals and started to take regular collagen and probiotics. I also started introducing more plant-based meals to my diet. Initially I thought that this would increase the bloating, but thankfully it did not.
Make time for exercise
For me personally, I sometimes barely have enough time to dry my hair everyday and so exercise I have learned to schedule in. I started to enjoy Pilates and Yoga for the first time. They are perfect de-stressers, great for any back issues and also ideal to do at home. I also found them to be really centering . One thing I did not expect them to be was painful. Wow, they give muscles at great stretch and release tension from your body, mind and soul!
This can be anything from chilling out in the bath, going for a walk, a massage, some light meditation or even watching your favourite TV show. Find fun ways to relax and take care of yourself. One of my favourite ways of getting some me time has been to go for regular massages. I hold a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and feel so much lighter after these are massaged out. Another way has been by trying meditation for the first time. I downloaded the Headspace app and began their Basic programme…. surprised how much I have enjoyed it too. Get a great massage, breathe more deeply, do something you enjoy and make sure you are getting enough opportunity to sleep.
Wine can be said to be a great healer. Coffee is a great excuse to catch up with a friend for a chat. However keep an eye how many stimulants you are taking each day, especially during stressful periods of time.
Make a list
I forget things when I have a lot on my plate…. hello, I am human. Being more organised has really helped me. I would never have described myself as disorganised before but I now love write those annoying little things in my head straight down onto paper or onto my phone’s to-do list.
Sleep/ take a break
When I am in a stress cycle I find my sleep patterns are rubbish and I definitely do not get enough sleep. I found by taking on board a number of the points above, that my sleep patterns actually improved. Some of my best nights sleep have been after a massage in particular. I also found that I sleep better when I am away from the house. If that is not a great excuse to get a mini break in I am not sure what it!
Ah this is the holy grail of friendships. Catching up with your good friends can be such a stress reliever. You know the ones that leave you feeling instantly revived after you have spent time with them! The ones that make you belly laugh! Arrange a catch up in person, talk on the phone, be around those that make you feel good about yourself. Talk that shit out ….. technical term.
We owe ourselves time everyday for a little bit of self-care ….. self-maintenance if you will. Whether it be reading, drawing, exercise, meditation or getting out for a laugh. Remember you can do anything, but not everything. Set your boundaries, learn to say no and always take care of you…. make yourself a priority this year!