It is often said that ‘I’m stressed’ is the new ‘I’m fine’. But what is this thing called stress though?
In our daily lives it’s the term we use to describe how we are feeling; overwhelmed, overworked, always on the go, too many things to do and not enough time, too many expectations and targets to meet.
How that translates in our bodies is as a perception of being under threat of serious injury or death.
One of the biggest drivers of modern disease.
The stress response itself isn’t actually a bad thing, in fact, its really useful to us when used in the appropriate setting, when having to run from a sabre tooth tiger or fight for our lives. The body produces stress hormones that cause the blood and energy to flood to our heart and muscles so that we have a better chance of surviving. All other bodily functions and housekeeping not necessary for that fight or flight reaction gets temporality switched off.
Well, that’s how it should happen, it should be temporary! However today’s stresses are chronic, and the body doesn’t know that the stress caused by your boss isn’t from an ogre (even though you might think he/she is!)
What this means is that most of us stay in a state of fight or flight, and the housekeeping just doesn’t get done. Repairing, digesting, restoring, growing all gets put on hold and eventually over time cracks start to appear and we get unwell. We develop disease, think of it as dis-ease.
Stress can imbalance your hormones, deplete you of nutrients, cause accelerated ageing and contribute to many conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Stress is not only caused by psychological factors. Poor diet, poor sleep, underlying illness, will also cause stress on the body.
Fortunately, there are some powerful tools we can use to combat and reduce stress in our lives that needn’t cost much or anything at all!
I’m sure you’re already guessed some of these tips, many of them have been around for centuries, but I can’t STRESS enough, pun intended, how amazing and powerful these strategies can be!
Now before you go and say I’ve tried this, and it didn’t work, I didn’t like it, I don’t have time, (insert your reasons here) let me tell you that this needn’t mean sitting cross-legged on the floor in silence for an hour every day. There are many ways to get some mindfulness/meditation in.
Start with 5–10 mins a day. Try to make it the same time each day, so you have a trigger to remind you and help build a habit. It could be when you are brushing your teeth, after lunch, in the shower, bath or while doing the dishes. You can do walking meditations or listening mediations, anything that allows your mind to stop thinking about the past or worrying about the future. It’s about being in the present, focusing on just being, and being aware of them now.
You don’t have to be good at it either, that’s why its called meditation/mindful practice, you are practising letting go of your thoughts and being in the present. Some great apps to help you understand the practise and its benefits, and to help you practise more are the 10% happier app, & headspace.
Long hugs of more than 10mins are proven stress relievers.
Animals are great for relieving stress, just sitting for a while talking to and petting your furry friend can work wonders, you could even turn it into a mindful practice. Just focus all your thoughts on loving and being loved by your pet. This can also be done with your partner and/or family, too.
Let’s not forget exercise, one of the best-known stress busters, just be mindful of the kind of exercise you choose if you’re already overworked and exhausted, then you’re best to stick with gentle exercise rather than high intensity. Yoga, gentle swimming, Thai chi, brisk walking are all gentle forms of exercise.
Whether you go out for a boogie on the weekend or just crank up the stereo and dance around the kitchen while making dinner, or do some silly dancing with your kids!
Walks out in nature
Especially barefoot walking, called grounding/earthing which are proven methods for stress relief. Nature and physical connection to nature are all-powerful stress relievers.
Learning to say NO
This is a biggie. It’s ok to say no, we don’t need to says yes to everyone and everything. Know your limit, and how much you can take on. Try it, and people will actually respect you for it.
The next one goes hand in hand with saying no because the more you say no to things the more time you’ll have for yourself to…
JUST DO NOTHING
And it’s totally OK to do nothing, this doesn’t mean watching TV, playing on your phone, or on social media, because believe it or not these actually cause more stress. When last did you go for a walk with no agenda, just an aimless wander? Or go sit under a tree in the park and daydream?
The human brain is wired to focus on the negative as a survival mechanism, so we actually have to make it focus on the positive. And the positive doesn’t have to be big, we take for granted so many little miracles every day! There are lots of phone apps available to help you keep a good gratitude journal or practice. Some of my favourites are the 5-Minute Journal and Gratitude: A gratitude Journal
Play and laughter!
The older we get the less we do this. Get less serious about life, play, laugh, be silly!
Music or creativity
Both are great outlets, no need to be the next Picasso, or start a rock band. Was there something creative or musical you like to do, or used to do as a child? Find it again! Even doodling is great, or
Stress isn’t an actual thing that happens to us, but rather a result of how we perceive the events in our lives. This takes some practice but its one of the most powerful tools we have because we cannot change what happens to us, but we can change how we respond to and perceive what happens to us. This we can have control of. One of the most powerful reframing tools I use when going through a tough time is to remind myself, this is only temporary, in a few weeks, months or years I will look back on this and laugh or see how it made me grow, or how it was actually for the best.
Additionally making sure we are eating a healthy nutrient-dense real food diet, packed with fresh vegetables, and avoiding processed foods and excess sugars, will help provide the body with what it needs to cope better.
Ensuring we get sufficient restorative sleep, which means getting 7–9 hours, and practising good sleep hygiene habits to ensure its quality restorative sleep such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, switching off all electronic devices including phones, TV and wifi, making sure your room is dark and cool, is essential so that the body can rest and recover.
Undoubtedly there will always be challenges in our lives and we will feel stressed, we can’t change that, but we can manage how this impacts our lives and health, using the strategies above, and that’s empowerment!
Like what you read and want to learn more? I post lots of info on health and diabetes on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/upgradeddiabetic/, and I also run a dedicated community for people who have diabetes, a place to share and learn, and feel supported, https://www.facebook.com/groups/upgradeddiabetic/