Tips on how to find balance, manage stress and improve your health

2015-05-14 06:00

TOO many South Africans fall victim to stressful lifestyles and miss out on ­enjoying a full balanced life and set the example we all want our children to learn from. So ask yourself, am I good example for the next generation? Why have I not mapped out a balanced routine for my loved ones yet?

Here are some triggers that can lead to an unbalanced and stressful lifestyle.

• Too little downtime

No down time with family or friends can leave you feeling isolated and as though your stress is too big to overcome. Try to incorporate family and social conversation or activity in your downtime at home for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Listening and engaging others can help assist you in finding solutions for your stress as well as theirs. This also diverts you from the core of your worries — so get back to basics.

• Too little sleep

Try to keep a routine by going to bed at a reasonable time, which will allow for maximum rejuvenation in order to take on the next day. Caffeine intake during the evening can hinder your ability to fall asleep — charge your batteries.

• Irregular eating

Avoid convenience foods. Fast food is a contributor to an unbalanced lifestyle where there is a lack of wholesome meals or fuel for your body to run on. Home cooking allows you to choose the best ingredients and cooking methods for your health. Poor diet coupled with stress can lead to stress related digestive problems — choose your rocket fuel wisely.

• Too much screen time

Limit your time with electronic devices (TV, tablets, cellphones). Screen time limits time set aside with your family as well as your sleep time. The electronic stimuli can hinder you from winding down and assuming a relaxed state — don’t be a zombie.

• Being indoors too much

A lack of outdoor physical activity is a huge contributor to not being able to relieve stress in a natural way. You may feel as though stress limits your energy levels but being active is the best and easiest way to help your body and mind — no more stale couch potato.

Some of these triggers sound familiar? The good news is it is never too late or too early to change. Stress can be caused by a number of things that transpire in our daily lives while not always considering the effects on our bodies. Stress is a contributor to poor health, such as a low immune system, poor heart health, low fertility and a poorly functioning digestive system. Ultimately, long-term effects of stress can result in panic attacks and anxiety disorders and so to avoid those extremes, which cause added stress, let’s look at ways to avoid stress and ways of relieving the existing stress you may have.

Five ways to relieve stress

• Track your stress by writing it down. This is also a means of metaphorically releasing the stress onto a piece of paper. This can also help to identify solutions or ways to cope.

• Talk about it. Talking about your worries can help get a different perspective from others on how you see your troubles and also allow others to offer solutions or methods of coping. Talk, laugh, cry, shout; it all helps.

• Move more. Physical activity is a proven instant stress reliever that costs nothing and makes an instant difference.

• Breathing exercises. Nothing can be more natural and calming like slowing your breathing and clearing your mind.

• Be kind to yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. You owe yourself time, enjoyment and pleasure. Carving out time to be kind to yourself is an important part of the balancing act. So take in a movie, read that book, get a massage or even just take that unheard of afternoon nap once in a while.

You might be living by the advice listed below, but if you are feeling the pressure of daily life, here are some tips to get back on track.

• Time traveller: mentally work out your routine and don’t forget you time.

• Get those zzzzzs: there may not always be enough time in the day, but nights are yours.

• Eat smart: you are what you eat, so eat healthier and live longer.

• Move me: moderate exercise daily is good enough, walking 20 to 40 minutes per day all adds up.

• Be optimistic! Optimism is directly linked to lower risk of strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. — The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

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