Stress can be crippling. We all experience it from time to time; being under too much pressure and feeling drowned with tasks and responsibilities.
Whether it be pressures of the workplace, problems in a relationship or general struggles in life, it is important to be aware of stress, its effects and how to combat it.
Millennials have been labelled as the ‘anxious generation’ but stress affects us all and we are not doing enough to prepare against it.
The best way to deal with stress is to apply self-care; something which, probably the majority of the populous, neglect to do.
To help address this issue and contribute to the National Stress Awareness Day campaign, here are some steps you should follow to alleviate stress from your life.
Step 1 – Breathing
What breathing does is keep your body oxygenated, helps extract toxins and creates a series of electrical impulses sent to the brain assuring that all is well in your body.
The deeper you breathe the calmer you will be as you won’t be depriving your body of oxygen; it’s as simple as that.
Most of the western world consists of shallow breathers. Recent research shows that 7/10 people go in to the Doctor’s with problems that are related to breathing.
Inadequate breathing is called hyperventilation syndrome. A lot of GP’s will look to prescribe drugs when they should be instructing their patients to simply breathe deeper.
See breathing as an internal massage for the body. Try to avoid shallow breathing which creates tension around the heart and causes stress to the brain.
Deeper breathing isn’t just for moments of stress; it should be a lifestyle change so you are calmer in all moments in life.
Then, when a stressful situation rears its ugly head, you will be able to deal with it with in a much calmer fashion and a much clearer head.
Step 2 – Water
After breathing, the second most important stress reduction factor is water.
Nothing in the body functions without it. The body is 70% water, the brain is 75% and even our bones are 25% water.
We lose 2 litres of water a day through breathing, sweating and urinating. Just a 2% reduction of water intake can lead to a 50% drop in concentration and performance.
Drink 2 litres of water a day to maintain hydration balance so your body’s cells can function optimally.
Look after yourself at a cellular level; when the cell is well all is well.
Step 3 – Food
Eat regular meals throughout the day i.e. get your three squares in.
Someone under stress is more likely to skip breakfast. Missing meals will lead to low blood sugar, low mood, irritability, fatigue and if you’re hungry in between meals you’re more likely to go for unhealthy snacks or make poor diet choices.
Which leads me nicely onto my next point of healthy eating. Consuming nutrient dense foods with a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats aids the pursuit of better brain activity.
It is very difficult to find healthy options in city centres or in local café’s which is why this writer would advise preparing meals and taking a good old packed lunch into work.
Not only will you feel better, you will also save time on your lunch hour giving you more time to relax.
Use that extra fifteen to twenty minutes to indulge in some Netflix, play a round of Clash of Clans or go for a stroll.
Step 4 – Sleep
Sleep is the barometer of good health.
Deep restorative sleep is essential; a well-rested body that has had a chance to do all of the necessary repairs is most capable of facing the challenges the next day will bring.
We spend a third of our lives sleeping or at least we are supposed to. As we go through our day we build up acid in our body and the reason why we sleep is to achieve alkalinity.
When we wake up feeling sluggish or tired, it is because our body is still acidic. A good delta wave sleep restores our body to alkalinity.
A stressed person’s thoughts are probably racing like crazy before bed to various scenarios leading to an inability to fall asleep or broken sleep.
Imagine going to bed acidic and waking up the same way, there will be a cumulative effect day by day which will only serve to add more stress to your life.
Avoid this by getting as much deep sleep as possible; the amount an individual requires varies but find your needed amount of delta down time and stick to it religiously.
Step 5 – Exercise
When we exercise we generally feel happier and less anxious due to the positive endorphins the activity evokes.
There is also a sense of achievement and an improved physical appearance from exercising. This can lead to even more of a feel good factor.
Exercise seems to almost mimics the effects of anti-depressants on the brain and has proven to improve the sleep patterns of insomniacs and lower their levels of anxiety.
So, instead of popping pills you’d be better off doing some HIIT training it seems.
Exercise is also responsible for the creation of new brain cells in the part of the brain for learning and memory.
People who regularly exercise also tend to be more resistant to illness and diseases as the activity leads to a higher production of anti-bodies boosting your immune system.
Step 6 – Mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about trying to stay in the moment.
When you’re under stress you’re going to be worrying or fretting over the past day, the next day or even the future. Picturing the worst case scenarios for various situations.
If you have difficulty staying in the present moment you are most likely being taken backwards, bringing back old negative memories of something that happened e.g. your boss having a go at you for not meeting a target.
Or you can be taken forwards e.g. anticipating being reprimanded by your boss again in the future.
Mindfulness is about being totally present in the now, fully focusing your mind on what you’re doing and experiencing the moment.
The idea of trying to positively influence what you’re doing in the moment before going backwards or forwards.
Bear in mind, mindfulness is no quick fix. To reach this mindset will take regular practice and a lot of patience which is where most people fall down.
To motivate yourself to stay on the mindful track know that our thoughts are key to tackling stress.
Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. They can either take you up the ladder of positivity or send you down a spiral of negativity.
Negative thoughts can make you lethargic and inefficient whereas positive thoughts will make you feel uplifted and motivated.
Live from a place of thanks and gratitude as opposed to a state complaint.
Step 7 – Be happy
Keep your spirit up. Do this by finding the time to enjoy yourself and enjoy by engaging in activities that uplift you.
They say laughter is the best form of medicine and nothing could be further from the truth. Laughter relaxes the entire body, triggers the release of feel-good endorphins and even boosts the immune system.
Being in a happier state of mind helps you deal with stress as it takes your mind away from constantly thinking about tasks at work, the next day, the last day, the future or the past.
The momentum of stress can really work against you and laughter gives you some breathing space. A chance to rejuvenate, recuperate and help to achieve mindfulness.
These steps won’t give you freedom from the storm of stress but you are equipping yourself as best as you can to deal with it.
Thankfully, stress is becoming increasingly acknowledged in the workplace. Many companies have taken steps to support their employees.
Does your employer support and educate their staff on stress? How do you best deal with stress? Voice your thoughts in the comments below!