Follow these easy steps to ease stress in your daily life.
Everyone feels stressed sometimes; it would be strange not to. In fact, stress can have a positive effect by keeping us alert and motivated. However, too much stress can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.
We all recognize the feeling; stuck in traffic, a work emergency, or something gone awry at home. As stress hormones flood our bodies the tell-tale stress symptoms rear their heads; increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth, and a knot in your stomach. You know the drill.
Situations like these happen often; it’s when those feelings persist for extended periods of time that it’s worth further investigation.
What is stress ?
This ‘stressed’ feeling is known as ‘fight or flight’ and dates back to our caveman days. It’s in our genes. Stress is ultimately a physical response to a tricky situation. The brain’s response to this threat is to alert our adrenal glands, which release a surge of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to increase heart rate and blood pressure and give us an increased burst of energy. In the past our caveman self would have been able to escape danger more effectively, and even in modern life this can lead to increased performance levels.
Problems occur when we are under pressure for prolonged periods of time. Ideally, our bodies want to maintain healthy blood pressure levels to help keep our risk of heart disease and stroke down. Stress, unfortunately, can have negative effects on our health; in the moment it sends our blood pressure soaring, and over time it can cause depression and anxiety.
Five signs of stress
The first step is knowing how to identify your stress symptoms and recognize when stress is becoming prolonged before it becomes a problem that could affect your health.
1. I’m grumpy
When we are under constant periods of prolonged stress the part of our brain that processes stress can become overworked and hypersensitive. This turns events that we’d normally be able to take in our stride into bigger events that seem impossible to handle.
2. I can’t sleep
Stress causes ‘hyperarousal’, which can make it hard to wind down at the end of the day, causing an imbalance between being asleep and being awake.
3. I can’t get out of bed in the morning
Prolonged periods of stress not only lead to poor-quality sleep but cause spikes and dips in our energy patterns, causing periods of ‘crashes’ where we have little or no energy.
4. I’m frowning
Stress can cause muscle tension which can lead to a furrowed brow. Other symptoms include stiffness in the neck and tension across the shoulders and upper back. Frequently clenched fists are another tell-tale sign.
5. My appetite has changed
In the short term, stress can lead to a decreased appetite as the hormones released can supress our natural feelings of hunger. However, over a longer period of time high cortisol levels will cause increased appetite and hunger levels.
How to manage stress
Spotting stress is the first step, but knowing how to apply stress management is the second and most important one. Fortunately, we all have the power to instil calm and positivity in our lives and steer our days in a more positive, zen direction. Here are some helpful tips to help you relax.
- Set your alarm. Get up earlier than everyone else. Nothing compares with that feeling when everyone else is still sleeping while you are wide awake, and it has the added benefit allowing you to get started on your day’s to do list ahead of time
- Skip the morning coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant, so skip the morning latte and opt for a hot lemon and water or herbal tea instead
- Breathe. Fill your lungs four or five times before acting or even thinking how you might act; not all problems need to be solved straight away
- Get out there and be active. A short walk, preferably in the countryside, will calm you down and change your perspective. The fresh air and movement will clear your mind and getting back to nature has been found to lower cortisol levels
- Write it down. A realistic to do list is an instant stress buster. Then start with the most difficult task. If the task is huge and takes a lot of time, break it into smaller, more manageable chunks
- Treat yourself. Have you had an exhausting day and just want to go home? Reward yourself with an evening with friends, a massage, or a glass of wine; whatever it is, tonight you are the centre of attention
- Dust off your bookshelf. Read more of what you want to. E-mails and messages mean that we are constantly ‘switched on’. Try switching everything off for a few hours, and lose yourself in an actual book
- Let the kids entertain themselves. It’s not always about your children, switch off from their demands and focus on you.
- Say no. You are not a super hero. Sometimes, you just can’t get everything done.
We all face pressure in our daily lives, so it’s important to reflect on steps we can take to maintain our equilibrium. A positive mind-set, as well as putting regular opportunities to take time out in the diary, is all it needs to transform annoying tasks that seem insurmountable to achievable jobs to be ticked off with ease.