Tense, nervous, anxious? You’re not the only one!
Am I stressed? Are you stressed? How and when do we know it's time to take action to manage the stress in our lives. I went on a quest to find out and this is what I learned.
Stress is one of the most lethal threats to our health
Stress is an inevitable part of our lives. Some people can’t get moving without a little threat to the status quo while others go to pieces at the slightest bit of pressure.
Depending on where we’re at in our lives, our response to stress is likely to vary significantly. I’m sure you’ve had those days when small, ordinary tasks made you feel overwhelmed and other days when no mountain seemed too high.
Often when small things seem to be just “too much" for us, it’s because we’re in the midst of some sort of hormone turmoil like PMS or perimenopause. For many women menopause, a time of shifting hormones, can be a time when stress gets to us easily. The psychological symptoms of menopause can sometimes be the most limiting and least discussed.
Stress is one of the most lethal threats to our health: it’s linked to any number of diseases: heart disease, depression, hair loss, alcoholism, excess weight, irritable bowl syndrome, cancer… Managing stress is therefore one of the most powerful ways to protect our health. The aim is to try to reduce the number of times a day/week that we feel tense, anxious, worried, cross or frustrated.
Here are 5 ways to manage stress:
1 Breathe Deeply
Identify your stress reactions. We’re all different - does your heart start to race, do your palms sweat, does your tummy take a nervous leap or maybe your brain goes into a swirl? Now, breathe…. deeply….. into your lower belly, expanding your rib cage. Take 5 such breaths. I’m doing it as I type and the effect is to instantly calm my nervous system. Deep breathing calms the parasympathetic nervous system which deals with emotional responses, relaxation and digestion.
2 Keep a journal
Get to know yourself and how you are feeling these days. Use a notebook that is for your eyes only - colouring pencils can add another dimension. It could be a something anonymous like a copybook or a pretty second springer style journal. Try to keep a very honest account of when and how you feel stressed. Is it particular times of the day, the month, the year? Which people or situations make you feel tense, nervous, angry or frustrated? Be totally honest, remember, you are only writing to yourself! Get to know what stresses you, how you tend to react and then take action to avoid or limit the number of times you put yourself in these challenging situations.
3 Relaxation techniques, mindfulness and meditation
Try to find a formula of relaxation to bring down your pulse rate and rebalance your stress hormones. This could be a walk in the fresh air, yoga, feldenkrais, mindfulness or meditation. Sometimes it’s good to just lie on the floor for 10-15 minutes with some calm music - close your eyes and breathe!
4 Balance blood sugar with good nutrition
Are you eating a good balance of food which includes the nutrients you need for a healthy nervous system? In particular you need to ensure that you have a low GI diet and one that is rich in Magnesium, B vitamins and Fish Oils. It’s important to avoid fatty and sugary foods which lower your immunity and will contribute stress to your body.
5 Get moving at your own pace
Do something that you enjoy and that involves moving your whole body – swimming, walking and yoga are ideal. Have a look at our page on exercise for some inspiration. For some people running can increase our stress hormones/cortisol levels so if you find that jogging does not alleviate stress find a slower, calmer form of exercise.
I think we’ve all heard over and again how much exercise helps with our feel good brain chemicals and it’s true! A brisk walk swinging your arms can put a whole new perspective on a day when you are feeling overwhelmed or low.
Put stress management Number 1 on your to-do list!
What can you do right now to support yourself? Breathe? Buy a journal? Get moving? Don’t wait until you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress. Take action now!
It’s an ongoing challenge so please help and support the rest of us by letting us in on any great techniques that have work for you.