Beating stress


At the end of your tether?

There are many constructive and positive coping mechanisms, starting with taking charge of your stress. This is the first thing you need to do, otherwise it will take charge of you.

You cannot worry about that which you can't control. What you can do, is employ coping mechanisms to minimise the stress. Not only will you feel better psychologically but you'll benefit physiologically too. Cortisol levels will lower, thereby minimising the potential harmful effects on your health.

Here are some of the specifics you can focus on first:

Let your self-talk be positive
The saying, "What you think, you become" has some truth. Block out those voices in your head that say you can't manage or will fail, and replace them with powerful positive statements. This takes discipline, but you will reap the rewards as you begin to act on the positive thoughts.

Get active!
Exercise is probably the best stress-reliever ever. Researchers have found that after 30 minutes of moderate exercise, their subjects scored 25 percent lower on psychometric tests measuring anxiety, and showed other favourable changes in brain activity. Physical activity also decreases depressive symptoms and anxiety, improves self-esteem, and enhances alertness and reaction time, all of which could be a problem when one is faced with excess stress.

Moderate exercise also decreases cortisol production during stressful periods. Preferably try to do some outdoor exercise in a beautiful environment, but if this isn't an option, select an alternative. The gym might not de-stress you as effectively - but at least the endorphins might help.

Watch what you eat
Fast food might be convenient, but it won't help at all - on the contrary. It's important to keep your blood glucose regulated by eating small, balanced, healthy meals throughout the day. You can't go wrong with fish, salads, fresh fruit and veggies, with some gentle spices for flavouring. Stay away from high-fat, highly refined foods; and go easy on the alcohol.

Get adequate sleep
Sleep is incredibly restorative to the body, especially the nervous system and adrenal glands, so ensure you get enough of it. Different people require different amounts of sleep, but on average, aim to sleep for about eight hours a night. Sleep deprivation affects blood glucose levels, reduces the production of the human growth hormone, increases the production of cortisol, and reduces the production of leptin (a hormone that signals satiety).

Get away at least once a day
Take 15 to 30 minutes each day when you are completely alone to listen to soothing or uplifting music or to read an inspiring book. Perhaps sit under a tree and look at the sky; feel the wind in your hair and listen to the rustling of the leaves. This will take you "out of yourself" and you will feel more peaceful.

Interact with kids
Their free spirits and light-heartedness almost always helps us to see things differently.

Book yourself an aromatherapy massage and be good to yourself
Research shows that touch works wonders for stress and it breaks down the social distancing that highly stressed people can create. It needn't even be from someone close to you (although that might be first prize) - so book yourself in for a massage. A daily hug from someone special can help too.

Chat to a friend
It's amazing how vocalising and sharing worries with someone close to you, lightens the load and helps one see issues from a different perspective.

Write about your worries as well as how you might overcome them in diary style or as a letter to a friend. This might stimulate more creative ways of dealing with stress, especially when your mind feels cluttered with issues.

Say "no", and try to get into a routine
If you are struggling to cope, don't be afraid to say no to projects that won't fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your mental health. You might feel bad initially, but you've got to get your priorities straight and your health has to be high on that list. Establishing a routine can help if you feel that you are spinning out of control.

Consider the following
Every night, before you go to sleep, think of a new thing for which you are grateful. Choose something you have not consciously thought of before.

Healthy lifestyle choices go a long way to help you to cope with stress, thereby empowering you to deal more effectively with it.

Practical tips:

  • Fix your money issues. Few things create as much stress as dreading the appearance of your credit card statement. Getting rid of debt is a topic on its own, but there are few projects more rewarding in the longer term than ridding yourself of that Damoclean sword. Grit your teeth and do it.
  • Take breaks at work. Set yourself a reminder to get up, stretch, bounce around on your tiptoes and wriggle your wrists.
  • Make time for a break. Try going for a swim, which helps get oxygen fizzing around in your bloodstream.
  • Get time alone with your partner. No phones, no artificial light. Watch a nostalgic video or, better still head for the outdoors - somewhere barefoot and away from traffic noise.
  • Have a good sniff. Try some essential oils, such as pine, citrus and sandalwood. Try some in your bath as well as in a burner on your desk if nobody objects.
  • Exhaust yourself. Whether it's a pre-dawn run, a bout of yoga or some one-to-one time with a heavy bag, few things are as good at nixing stress as tiring exercise. You owe it yourself and everyone around you to make the time.
  • Don't try to do too much. Cherry-pick two or three important, high-priority things each day. Get them out of the way early and you'll feel more peaceful than if you either did nothing or tried to do too much.
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