Beat Stress Now

Beat stress now!

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It’s normal to experience stress from time to time. In fact, in the right context, a bit of pressure can boost your motivation, focus and productivity. But when it exceeds your ability to cope or continues for a long time, pressure can tip over into stress, which can hamper your wellbeing.

What are the causes of stress?

Any life experience has the potential to create stress if your brain interprets it as a threat, especially if it’s something over which you feel you have little or no control, such as a redundancy or a relationship breakdown.

Having to deal with more than one challenge at the same time – for example, moving house as well as work related stress - is particularly likely to tip you into the stress zone.

What are the signs of stress?

You may start to drink more alcohol, sleep less or change your eating habits. You might feel irritable and impatient, find it hard to concentrate, and you may also notice some physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension and dizziness.

How does stress affect your health?

Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking to excess, comfort eating and smoking can all impact on your health. And stress itself can directly affect your body. Under stress, your adrenal glands release a surge of hormones, and long-term exposure to these hormones has been connected to conditions including IBS, heart disease and lowered immunity, making you more susceptible to colds.

Stress can also put you at risk of depression, plus other mental and physical symptoms .

How to deal with stress

Different stress management techniques work for different people, so you may need to adopt a trial-and-error approach to finding what helps you. But do take action, as you can only reduce stress when you feel you can control it.

These tips can all help with stress relief:

  • Talk it over. Talking to someone, whether it’s your partner, a friend or a counsellor, helps to stop tension building up, and they may be able to help you find ways to manage your particular causes of stress.
  • Eat well. Having regular, balanced meals can help your body deal with stress, giving you the nutrients and energy you need. Consider taking a multivitamin – the B vitamins in particular can be depleted when you’re under stress.
  • Avoid stress-enhancers. Alcohol may make you feel relaxed at first, but regularly exceeding the recommended maximum amount (two to three units a day for women; three to four for men) can reduce your ability to cope with stressful situations and raise your risk of stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Cut down on coffee. Avoid drinking too much caffeine, which can drive up stress levels and cause palpitations; try herbal teas instead.
  • Get moving. Exercise triggers the release of the calming hormone serotonin, which helps to dampen the effect of stress hormones. Exercising at the end of a stressful day can help you put the day behind you.
  • Learn a relaxation technique. Meditation, yoga, self-hypnosis and breathing exercises can all help you master the art of calm. Immersing yourself in a hobby can also be very helpful when dealing with stress.

This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

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