Has anyone ever had the gall to say to you “relax, it’s all in your head” when your stress levels are reaching an all time high on the Richter scale? Yes. Me too.
“You just need to relax, get some sleep. It’ll look better tomorrow.” Another classic.
Not wanting to sound passive aggressive, but I don’t think this advice has ever helped me to feel better about or manage my stress levels.
The reality is, you can’t think your way out of a stress response. This is hard-wired into our evolution as a result of occasional life-threatening events like escaping a sabre-toothed tiger when out hunting and gathering. Only now, the benign everyday stressors of extreme exercise, an approaching deadline or being stuck in traffic elicit the same response.
Worse than that is that the experience of stress in the past magnifies your reactivity to stress in the future. Which would suggest that our ability to withstand stress has less to do with being strong willed and everything to do with how much and what kind of stress we encountered in the past.
Added to that, when stress becomes routine, the constant biochemical release takes its toll on the body, which starts to wear out at an accelerated rate. Many studies point to the wide-ranging effects that stress has on the body.
Examples are increased risk for heart attack or stroke due to high levels of epinephrine; impaired immune system due to cortisol activation; arthritis as a result of prolactin, a hormone released in response to stress; and bursts of violent behaviour due to an excess of serotonin.
Understanding the mechanics of what is going on inside the brain and the body during stress, can help us to develop ways to re-train the body and mind to process stress and avoid over-responding to minor provocations.
The point is to have a few stress-reduction tricks up your sleeve to deploy proactively. Remember that everyone responds to stress differently, therefore it is important to apply a flexible approach to the solution.
My tried and tested anti-stress techniques;
Remove foods that cause biochemical stress in the body – sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed carbs, alcohol and caffeine. These foods increase levels of cortisol in the body and cause spikes in your blood sugar, increasing stress levels. Add these instead.
Try mindfulness or meditation – regular practice can help to ease you out of a chronic fight-or-flight state. New to meditation? Try this to ease you in.
Moving meditation or yoga – researchers have found that regular practice has positive impacts on physiological and immunological markers of stress and inflammation.
Spending time in nature – despite the modern way we live, we continue to have a deep connection with nature and when we nourish that connection it provides many benefits; stress reduction, improved short term memory and calm nerves to name a few.
Connection with others – when we feel connected to another person, our bodies respond in ways that help us to become calmer. A 20-minute hug from a friend, family member or pet increases oxytocin, boost the immune system and lessen fatigue – beneficial for reducing stress levels, heart health and managing mood.
There are many different ways to reduce your stress levels. The point is to apply some of these methods daily to actively combat stress.
Want more? You can contact me for some 1-1 person-centred coaching. Book a free clarity call to see how best I can help ❤️