STRESS: How to minimise this silent killer

 

Do you have trouble sleeping or find it really hard to relax? Do you feel overwhelmed by people and things in your life?

 

I am not surprised. Most people I coach are so stressed out they don’t know whether they are coming or going. A lot of them sleep badly or not at all. Their eating habits are out of control. Many find it a struggle to maintain or lose weight. They also feel like life is passing them by, that they lack the time, energy, confidence or motivation to do everything they need to do.

They spend their days and weeks running around like headless chickens, frustrated and angry with things, people and themselves, only to finally break down in front of me.

Our world is moving at a frighteningly fast pace and a lot of us feel like we need to work harder, move faster and get more done. We need to look good, make lots of money, have successful jobs and amazing relationships, raise brilliant kids and have big houses and big cars, go on amazing holidays… we want to have it all.

In the process, important values and traditions are being swept aside, and so is our health. Our lifespan is supposed to be longer than ever, yet we are dropping like flies from many modern self inflicted diseases. Many symptoms we think of as randomly caused are in fact caused by stress: headaches, asthma, eczema, allergies, neck and back pain, chest pain, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, depression, hair loss, infertility, heart disease, cancer…

Chronic stress can do as much damage to our bodies as smoking, not eating right or not exercising

We humans have always had the sympathetic nervous system to deal with stressors. Its evolutionary purpose was to sharpen our senses and reactions so we could be at our best, whether we chose to confront that Mammoth charging in our direction, or to get out of its way quickly. This part of our nervous system controls what you may know as the fight or flight response. It’s our body’s way of dealing with acute stress.

Nowadays we may not have to confront Mammoths, but we have to deal with Mammoth proportion chronic stress, a modern phenomenon our bodies are simply not equipped to deal with. This means that our fight or flight response is always turned on; we are in a constant state of danger management. As a result, our immune system is hugely compromised. The body diverts resources from bodily functions you can do without until later. It stops doing some of the things that it normally does in order to deal with stress.

If you’ve ever had an extremely stressful week followed by a bad cold or flu then you know what I am talking about.

But how can we combat this silent killer and start to feel a bit more chilled out?

1/ Learn to manage your time better: Don’t be a hero. You don’t have to do everything perfectly and you don’t have to do it all yourself either. Learn to prioritize, delegate and say no more often. Time management skills will not only free up time, but also precious mind space. By simply making a to do list and prioritizing urgent and important tasks over things that can be put off, delegated or deleted, you will notice you can get more done with the time you have. I’ve coached people from all walks of life, from Barristers, to business people, to students, to housewives… and they all swear by the life saving tools they’ve discovered.

2/ Exercise regularly: Exercise is not a luxury or a choice. It is a necessity. We weren’t given two arms and two legs to sit them at an office desk or on a couch for ours. Make time to do something active every day, preferably in the fresh air. Whether it is a power walk, a cycle, or a fitness class, it doesn’t have to last long, it just needs to be intense enough to get you out of breath and break into a good sweat. Exercise helps your muscles and your mind relax and as a consequence you’ll get to sleep better too.

3/ Don’t sweat the small stuff: Why worry about the traffic not moving fast enough, about other people’s annoying habits, or the rain? First, recognise what is been stressing you out. Then, decide to do something about those things you have control over, and let go of those things you have no control over. Keep focusing on becoming the best person you can be, and avoid judging other people, getting angry at them, or wasting time and effort trying to change them.

4/ Avoid stressors such as alcohol, cigarettes, sugary foods and wheat. These put your system under immense strain. If you lead a high stress life you can at least help yourself by eating well. Make sure most of what you eat is fresh seasonal produce: vegetables, fruits, seeds, spices, lean meats and fish, eggs, and oils such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, Udo’s oil or real butter. Avoid pre-packed, pre-cooked or overcooked foods. Also, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of clean filtered water.

5/ Breathe! When we are stressed out we tend to hold our breath or breathe quick and shallow therefore taking in little oxygen to our lungs, brain, organs and muscles. Oxygen, the one thing we can’t live without for more than a few minutes! Try this out: Inhale for four counts, imagine that your belly is a rubber balloon and you are slowly filling it with air. Hold your breath for four counts. Now, exhale for eight counts, making sure your belly stays relaxed as it lets the air out. You may feel that after four counts you need to expel all the air out. That’s fine. Empty your lungs fully before you take another deep breath into your belly.  Repeat eight to ten times. As you do this, repeat in your mind the word “soften” over and over. Notice how you’ve already loosened up.

Other things you can start to do to help you decompress are: play relaxation or hypnotic Cds before going to bed, take a yoga class, or simply set a few minutes aside to meditate.

Now, the good news is, most of the damage can be prevented or reversed by doing things to minimise unnecessary stress. Taking just a few minutes to appreciate and be thankful for all the good things in your life will help you put things into perspective and unwind.

 

 

Oooooommmmm...

 

Anna

anna@delite.ie

Comments

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