Stress.. that dreadful sensation that creeps into our daily routine and rises our cortisol levels… Ohh don’t you wish stress was a balloon and you could just grab a pin, pop it so you can then see it melt away?! I know..me too! Truth is, stress can be beneficial if you’re getting attacked by a bear as it’s a vital warning system producing the fight-or-flight response. But unless you’re fighting a bear everyday, then my guess is you’re facing a different kind of stress. For some people (myself included) a little dose of stress helps with better focus when it comes to deadlines or being more productive. You can also get that adrenaline pumpin’ when you’re doing some sort of HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise. Arguably, this isn’t such a bad thing.
But what do you do when your stress doesn’t fall under any of these categories? Recently, a friend of mine going through a stressful situation, has experienced some bad side effects causing her skin to itch badly and flare up. This ended up with several trips to the hospital and it’s been an ongoing situation now. Yours truly has experienced several gut issues due to stress which were not fun at all! (not even getting chased by a bear can top that!).
Let’s put it this way: we simply don’t have the capacity to see what’s going on inside our bodies. As a result, we wrongly assume we are okay and ignore all the symptoms. In reality, we are unaware of the damage we create by constantly stressing. And to make matters worse, sometimes we binge eat or drink just because it is an easy way out. But as you know that’s a not a very sustainable solution to say the least.
As I’ve been in many stressful situations before (and no doubt I’ll be in more going forward), I wanted to share a few tips that help me deal with it.
Acknowledge the situation that’s causing stress
The sooner we recognise there’s always going to be stressful situations in our lives, the better we can prepare for it. Of course work will have its crazy moments when you’re running on deadlines, top up with school runs if you’re a parent or demanding bosses/family. In general, most life situations usually go wrong and as we all know “When it rains, it pours”. Rather than focusing on fixing the issue, most times we stress about what already occurred. We very often forget that we have the choice to look at “stressful” situations and see them merely as “challenging”. Would you rather add extra pressure on yourself and get ill or find a way to resolve the issue? I know which one I would prefer.
I was recently listening to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins where they briefly touched on this, reacting to stressful situations. Tony Robbins suggested adopting the 90 seconds rule, where you allow yourself to get upset for 90 seconds. After that, you decide on how best deal with it. Of course we both know you’re not a Zen Master (or maybe you are?!) and at times this won’t work. Just remember that the more you start applying it, the more you can train your mind on how to react in these circumstances.
Know your stress triggers
Do you constantly get ill or have a cold? Do you get headaches, body aches? Are you more irritable at times, angry and anxious? (Sorry ladies, we can’t always blame the hormones!) Do you experience changes in your appetite or your blood pressure is quite high? These are all signs that you might be stressed. We all know our bodies best and can recognise what triggers our stress if we listen. Simply recognise those situations and the moment you feel like all hell is about to break loose, check in and follow the next three steps to deal with it. In my case, I’ve come to a point where I recognise straight away when the situation is about to get critical. That’s not to say I am always in control, don’t get fooled by it.
To give you the perfect example my last few months were again a bit all over the place and quite emotional so I could feel it building up. First signs were certain foods and caffeine that would trigger my symptoms again. What I tend to do: recognise it, get a bit strict with my food, cut out caffeine and take it easy for a while till I see improvements. Yes, it’s not always easy to check in or even want to recognise the triggers, believe me I get it! You just have to be willing to constantly work on it, think of it as a new habit which can have a massive impact on the overall outcome.
In case you didn’t know this already, research has shown time and time again that exercising has amazing benefits. Among some of them are reducing stress and anxiety as exercising releases endorphins-your brain’s feel good neurotransmitters. Choose an activity you’re happy to do and doesn’t feel like a chore. If you like running, enjoy walking to work or cycling, or prefer a gym class, weightlifting, dancing etc. do that! Realise that ultimately it’s your call, you’re the CEO of your own health and you decide what works best for you, not the latest trends in exercising 😉
Relax & meditate
Meditation has been a great help for me, I definitely swear by it. It enabled me to be more calm, focused, relaxed and also more aware and in tune with my emotions. Headspace and Kris Carr’s meditation album have been a massive help. They are super simple and straight forward and you’re being guided so you always know what to do. There’s plenty of myths around meditation and one of them is that you’re not supposed to let your mind wonder. This is almost impossible especially when you’re starting out. You acknowledge your thoughts until you reach a moment of stillness and go from there so don’t let that put you off 🙂
Another great way to relax is a nice Epsom Salts bath. Adding Espom Salts to your baths has a detoxifying effect on your body so you will get several benefits on top of relaxing. Some nice relaxing music and some candles or an oil burner with Levander oil can definitely help you relax and get a better sleep.
This last tip is now one of my favourites. For many years I wouldn’t reach out to my friends as much as I should have. People would always reach out to me but I never felt quite comfortable to do so myself. Also I could sense some people were too judgemental and just didn’t want to be overly candid with them. I guess you could argue I was biased to my own experiences. A couple of years back I watched this amazing Ted Talk by Brené Brown. I then went on to reading her books which have changed my life. In the processes, I’ve acknowledged how many amazing people I have around me. Needless to say, I now see vulnerability as a great strength and an act of courage.
I always reach out when I feel stressed or going through a difficult period. As human beings we are wired this way, we crave authentic connections and love sharing stories that which most times are relatable. Further more, opening up to people who’ve gone through similar experiences will offer a new insight into your own story or at least some helpful guidance.
Let’s face it- you should reach out to your friends and share your issues with them just because life is much better doing so. Remember close friends, family, people who care about you in generally won’t judge you for who you are or at least they shouldn’t 😉
Do you have any other tips for de-stressing? Which of the above is your favourite or you’ve applied before? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Till next time focus on the good,