We’ve all been there – feeling stressed, our heart beating, our mouth dry and our stomach churning. Whether it’s short-term stress which gives you a burst of adrenaline and energy, or whether it’s something more prolonged and troublesome, stress is part of our lives.
It’s normal to feel a burst of short-term stress. In fact, we humans need the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released to give us a surge of energy to be able to deal with a stressful moment; whether it’s coping with an exam, having an argument, making an emergency stop in the car, or in primeval times, being chased by a mountain lion. We need stress hormones for survival.
Stress becomes a problem though when it is on-going and you cannot seem to cope well with it, or you cannot seem to shrug it off. It’s a common modern day problem.
COMMON SIGNS THAT YOU ARE STRESSED;
- disruptions to your normal sleep patterns
- feeling anxious, breathless
- feeling run down all of the time
- losing motivation and zest for life
- changes to your normal digestion such as loss of appetite or indigestion
- feeling up-tight and unable to cope
- crying and finding it hard to control your emotions.
Recognising that you are suffering from long-term stress is the first step. Then you can do something about it.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT YOUR STRESS?
Firstly, attempt to make changes to eliminate the stress in the first place – not always easy but worth trying. Maybe reduce your hours at work; temporarily drop some of your commitments; get some help to manage your busy schedule; take a holiday or break.
Secondly, focus on some Mindful breathing exercises such as Alternate Nasal Breathing – practise these exercises daily and then use in moments of intense stress.
Thirdly, nourish your body with the nutrients it needs. Under stress the adrenal glands will be using up vast quantities of Vitamin B, C and magnesium. So, eat plenty of fresh vegetables especially the dark green leafy type such as kale, broccoli, sprouts, cabbage. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Boost your Vitamin B by eating meat, poultry, offal, eggs, dairy, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. You might also consider taking a quality Vitamin C supplement, or a multi-vitamin, for a few months to help boost your levels.
You could also try to increase your movement regime – moving helps to use up excess circulating blood sugar. It’s calming, invigorating and gives you time to think and hopefully put things into perspective. Try regular gentle walking, stretching or yoga. Keep to a regime that is manageable and enjoyable – set yourself small movement goals and build up your fitness levels gradually.
Avoid relying on stimulants such as coffee and alcohol to help you cope with stress. They will be masking your problems but not actually dealing with the root cause. Coffee is a stimulant which, consumed in excess, will further increase the output of stress hormones, compounding stress further.
You might find you need to talk to someone about your stress. Maybe seek professional counselling, or sometimes a really good chat with a friend can help. If you feel your stress is out of control, you may need to seek the advice of your GP.
Remember that you are not alone and that you can make positive small changes to help you to live a healthier and happier life.