How do you feel right now? Check your breath. Is it shallow, taking short, little breaths through your nose? Check your hands and teeth – are they clenched? Check your shoulders – are they tensed up towards your ears?
If you answered yes to two of the above questions, you might be more stressed that you think you are.
Stress is a funny thing. One day, you can feel it, in your head, in your stomach, in your jaw. Then the next day, you feel like you’ve gone back to your normal self. That’s the thing about stress: it’s adaptive. In its fight to maintain stability, the status quo, your body adapts to stress. It produces more hormones to keep you on an even keel, so that the stress level that’s go you all over the place one day, could feel normal the next.
But all that stress that you’ve adapted to has a negative effective in the long term. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone. When your body produces high levels of cortisol on an ongoing basis, i.e. when you’re constantly stressed, bad things happen. Your immune system doesn’t work as well, you put on weight around the middle, your ability to get pregnant is reduced and your mood is affected.
So now that you know about stress and how your body can adapt to it, how can you keep it under control?
1. If you can’t reduce stressful events in your life like work, school or family, you can change how you react to these stressors. Being gentle on yourself and having perspective on what really matters can help reduce your response to stressful things like a big work project, a looming school deadline or unruly children (or parents!).
2. Take a deep breath. This is a quick thing you can do when you feel overwhelmed. Deep breathing supports your nervous system and gets your body back into parasympathetic mode.
3. Don’t reach for the biscuit tin. Sugary foods will exacerbate your stress. Nourish your body and eat foods that boost the happy hormones like avocado, wild salmon and almonds.
4. Take a break. Take 5 minutes from your desk and go for a little walk (leave your mobile at your desk too). Your emails still be there when you get back but in the meantime, you’ll have stretched out your legs and gotten a little perspective on whatever’s troubling you.
5. Stretch it out. A regular yoga or pilates practice will support the release of endorphins and happy hormones like serotonin and melatonin.
6. Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can change our perspective, push us into negativity and make stress worse. After a good night’s sleep, the things that are causing you stress may not have disappeared, however being rested will hopefully give you a better perspective on how to tackle your stressors.
7. Develop a good self-care routine. Everyone’s self-care routine is different but having one is a must. Doing small things for yourself is a fantastic way to lower your stress. Take a hot bath, light a lovely candle, have a long conversation with a good friend, go for a nature walk. Find a way to do something that makes you feel good and that doesn’t add to your stress levels.
How do you manage your stress levels?
Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health and wellbeing and reduce your stress.