You’re literally stressed out. You feel tense most of the time. Your bills keep on piling up like mountains. You hear your baby crying. The demands and responsibilities of family life keep haunting you. You wish there were more hours in a day so you could finish everything in your schedule. Life just doesn’t get any easier for you. Or so you thought.
In New Zealand, 1 of 5 people feels stressed out at work based on a 2013 survey. Even many self-employed people reported work stress in the same survey. A 2014 survey reported that 1 of 4 Australians have moderate to severe levels of stress. The highest levels were reported between the ages 18 to 35 years old. Stress is real and our health can really suffer from it. Here are our tips to help you fight stress:
Declutter your mind and environment. According to scientists, if you have a cluttered environment, your ability to focus becomes difficult and can bring you stress. Clear out anything unnecessary from your work space. Likewise you can declutter your mind by writing jobs in a task list to clear your mind. This will also take care of the added stress of trying to remember all your tasks.
Go for that lifestyle change. Make gradual changes in the following areas of your life:
Diet. Avoid alcohol, smoking and sugar. While these will temporarily make you feel good, don’t be fooled! When their effects disappear, you’ll be right back to where you started. They’re also addictive and can have damaging effects on your health.
Smoking raises your brain’s levels of dopamine (because of the nicotine) and it makes you feel temporarily elated, giving you a false sense of relief and relaxation. But in actual fact it puts the body under increased stress. It also doesn’t change the situation at all, and can lead to an impaired ability to cope with stress. Stay away from tobacco!
As for alcohol, you may think it helps you deal with stress, but it can actually make the stress worse. It slows down your thinking processes and makes it harder for you to relieve stress and anxiety.
A high sugar diet predisposes you to diabetes. Diabetes makes your blood glucose levels difficult to manage and prolonged high blood glucose levels have many negative effects on your body. Focus on low sugar foods including vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats for stable energy all day.
Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep is another cause of stress. Your ability to concentrate is hampered if you are lacking sleep and can bring you a lot of stress. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep. It also helps to establish a routine of going to sleep around the same time each night.
Exercise regularly. This should always be a consideration on your list of things to do to lessen stress. Exercising helps to release stress and helps you to unwind. But remember, you’re exercising to release stress, not increase it! You’re not preparing for a big boxing match, so don’t over do it. A short 10-20 minute walk will do the trick. You can even go with a friend and have a catch up at the same time.
Try adaptogenic herbs. They may help your body to cope with stress better. Those who undergo prolonged stress benefit from these the most. Adaptogenic herbs promote homeostasis and stabilise physiological processes in your body. Some even increase your stamina and endurance, two things you need when you’re under a lot of stress on a regular basis.
Ask your naturopath about which ones will benefit you the most.
Load up on your vitamins and minerals. Whenever you’re under stress, your body uses up a lot more of certain vitamins and minerals. So focus on giving your body more of these nutrients through food (and supplements if needed):
Take the active forms of these nutrients so that no unnecessary conversion is needed before your body can use them.
Share your feelings and say what you need. Not being able to say what you want can mount up a lot of anxiety and stress for some people. Just think of it this way, if you don’t speak up and tell people about your needs and feelings, you’ll be stressed out. Imagine what that will bring, and maybe you can push yourself to overcome it.
Identify the stressors in your life and do something about them. A stressor is anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and brings you stress. It could be any of the following:
Stressful events: e.g. that horrendous traffic, forgetting your keys
Environmental: e.g. too many people at the mall, too much noise, lights too bright
Changes in your life: e.g. the death of a family member, a divorce
Stressors at your workplace: e.g. the over-expecting boss, occupational health hazards, high job demands
Chemical stressors: e.g. drugs, alcohol, tobacco
Social stressors: e.g. family demands, responsibilities of being a parent
For example, if you’re stressed out about traffic (a daily source of stress). Try to leave early in the morning to avoid it. You may have to wake up early and put in a little extra effort. But in the end you’ll avoid being stressed about the traffic. In addition, you can listen to relaxing (not sleepy) music or a good audio book while you drive. These can help you relax and take your mind off the stress.
Another good example of how you can avoid a stressor, like too much work at the office, is to plan the time you’re going to do those things in. Set a specific and realistic time frame to get through the work and stick to it. Make sure you accomplish them on time. You may have to force your way at first, but finishing on time will give you a sense of relief and accomplishment. Goodbye stress.
Have time for relaxation, laughter and free time. Free time is officially identified as time for your hobbies and other fun activities you enjoy. Make sure you set aside some regular free time to clear your mind and reset everything. Laughter is especially good for releasing stress.
RELAX! Yes, it’s a word we frequently hear and don’t seem to really understand. It can be as simple as deep breathing or as exciting as watching a horror movie (hey, if that relaxes you!). You can also try some other relaxation techniques such as Tai chi, music therapy, art therapy, hypnosis, meditation or massage.
Remember, a small amount of stress is good for you and your health. But the point where it turns into pathologic stress (harmful stress), that’s the unpleasant part that you want to avoid.