Getting sick more often than usual? Not sleeping well? Gaining weight yet eating less?
If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, chances are that you might be experiencing some degree of stress in your life. Other clues you may be stressed include: headaches, back pain, tension, jaw clenching, frustration, forgetfulness, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, feeling overwhelmed/anxious/nervous, sweaty palms and mood swings. And there’s so much more!
For one person, stress could result from losing a loved one and for another it could be having a tough time at work. Or it could just result from us trying to juggle all of life’s ups and downs. Whether or not stress is physical, mental or emotional, our bodies produce adrenaline and cortisol which prepare our bodies to fight or flee. This response helps us produce enough glucose for energy, keep our brains alert and mobilizes fats and prepares them to be broken down for additional energy. Historically, stresses included being chased by a wild animal. In today’s world, our stressors are often more subtle, but our bodies still respond in the same way.
In the short term, stress can motivate us to finish that pressing assignment that’s due or to get our 50- item to-do lists done! It focuses us and helps us to be efficient and effective. However, when stress becomes chronic, our health can become affected and we tend to be less able to cope with our stressors. This is when we begin seeing declines in our health and don’t feel like ourselves.
Taking time to tame stress starts with acknowledging that you are stressed in the first place. So next time you feel overwhelmed, try some of these tips.
1. Stop and BREATHE
Check yourself right now: Are you breathing from your chest or abdomen? Deep breathing from the abdomen is a powerful and simple way to settle our minds and help with stress.
2. Allow yourself to say “NO” sometimes
We often feel like we have to do EVERYTHING, which can cause unnecessary pressure for us. Try saying “NO!” once in a while to some of the demands you face and see the difference it makes.
3. Move! Dance, walk, run, do yoga, do something!
Daily exercise at a minimum of 30 minutes/day can do wonders to blast away tension and give us a much needed release.
Laughing releases endorphins that make us feel good, light and relaxed which can dispel any tension quickly.
5. Express Gratitude
A daily practice of expressing gratitude gets us focused on positive things in our lives rather than negativities, which add to stress. Try saying a simple “thank you” today.
6. Be mindful of your stressors
To bust stress, it helps to be aware of what stresses you out.
7. Nurture positive relationships in your life
Invite positive people to share your life with you. We feel lighter, more positive and motivated to attract more of the same. Also be mindful of people you tend to feel tense and stressed around.
Cheating yourself out of sleep doesn’t do you any favours long term. Aim for 7-9 hours/night if possible.
9. Rethink caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
Stress is not just external. What we put into our bodies needs to be processed at some point. Caffeine tends to stimulate us and feed the stress response. Alcohol and nicotine also affect our nervous and immune systems and our ability to cope with stress.
10. Check your diet
Do you tend to crave processed, sweet and refined/junk foods? Adding health promoting vegetables, fruits and foods in general can make a significant difference for our bodies.
This is just a snapshot of tips you can practice. Stress is multifactorial and affects us in multiple ways. Stress can motivate us but can also affect our mental, emotional and physical health in the long run. Moderation, therefore, is definitely key.