Is there too much stress in your life?
Stress begins to show its true colours long after it has started. For this reason, many of us don’t know how to combat stress on an early stage. Some examples of stress are: when you find that you wake up in the morning more tired than when you went to bed. Maybe you find yourself reacting badly to small things that never used to affect you. Or suddenly you might find yourself coming down with colds and flu for no apparent reason.
If this sounds like you … its time to reflect on what’s going on …. and discover the best ways to relieve stress.
What is stress?
There are almost as many ways to define stress as there are ways to get stressed! For simplicity, we shall refer to it here as the mind and body’s way of reacting to a difficult challenge or situation. If the challenge is too big, or the resources available are too limited, then this causes negative stress.
All of us have experienced stress at some point of our life. In addition, it can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce or job loss. On the other hand, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, for example, being promoted at work or having a new baby.
Stress is initiated in what is referred to as the primitive brain. This is the part of the brain that developed in the earliest stages of your evolution and includes areas such as the amygdala and hypothalamus. This is relevant because, not only can stress happen quickly, but it can also take hold even before the conscious mind has had a chance to detect it.
Because stress starts in the primitive brain, it is often associated with the well known ‘fight or flight’ response that would have been wholly appropriate for our pre-historic ancestors, but is less relevant for modern life.
What stress does to your body
The immediate impact of stress is to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into the body. This in turn will increase your blood sugar levels, make you breathe faster (but shallower), narrow the arteries, raise cholesterol and increase your heart rate.
All these physical responses are ok if the stress is short-lived and the body is allowed to turn back to normal as soon as the threat has passed. But if stress becomes chronic, and these physical responses persist, they can lead to more worrying health problems.
Chronic stress depletes the immune system and has been linked to asthma, heart disease, lower back pain and headaches among many other potential ailments.
How to combat stress
Not surprisingly stress has got a very bad name. But you would do well to bear in mind that stress DOES serve a purpose. Stress energises the body and prepares it for the challenges ahead. It’s only when it is mismanaged that it causes a problem.
In fact, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal implores us to change our thinking about stress. Scientific research has shown that it is our belief that stress is bad that is actually bad for us. The key is to accept that stress is an inevitable part of life, but to make ourselves better equipped to deal with it.
So here are 5 practical tips to combat stress:
1) When you feel stress mounting – breathe more slowly and deeply. This will tackle the symptoms of stress at a physical level.
2) Increase the resources you have available to you. Build in contingency, leave earlier, keep money over for emergency spending and plan ahead more.
3) Reduce your exposure to noise and lessen your commute if you can. Both noise and commuting are known to increase stress levels.
4) Reconnect with good friends and family. Amazingly, the hormone oxytocin (known as the ‘hugging hormone’), usually associated with bonding and feelings of love, is released in times of stress. It’s nature’s reminder that being social and helping others can take our minds away from our own challenges.
5) Book in for a soothing massage. This has the combined impact of releasing endorphins, stimulating the cardio-vascular system and helping you benefit from the restorative power of human touch.
We hope this information is useful for you. We will continue these series of blogs about stress and the different techniques you can use to reduce it. If you have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Islington and Mill Hill Broadway. If you like this blog, please share!
We are always happy to help.