Minimise stress this national stress awareness day
We’ve all felt stress at one point or another. This is because the feelings and physical signs of stress are our bodies natural reaction to being placed under challenging and difficult circumstances. To some though, stress can be an ongoing, chronic and detrimental problem. That’s why we mark National Stress Awareness Day, which falls on the 2nd November this year. The day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the problem of stress, and reflect on how we can help ourselves, as well as each other, to combat it.
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s natural way of trying to protect us under pressure. When we’re stressed, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released. They’re responsible for creating what’s often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response, allowing us to prepare quickly for a sudden change, threat or challenge. It’s great help in the moment, but if long-term, our bodies being jammed in this ‘mode’ is harmful and it makes us unwell.
It’s well documented that prolonged stress can bring on or worsen all manner of illnesses. It can increase our likelihood of catching colds or flu, worsen allergies, flare up skin conditions, trigger mental illness- the list goes on. And when this does occur, further stress related to these health issues only makes things worse, resulting in a downward spiral that it can seem impossible to pull out of.
How can I minimise stress?
The key to reducing your level of stress is knowing the causes. We all lead different lives so everyone’s triggers are different. If you can identify what’s causing your stress, can you cease or remove that source? Inevitably, there are many challenges in life we can’t just put a stop to, such as family or work pressures. In these situations, it’s best to counteract with some ‘de-stressing’; techniques or activities that can help bring your overall stress level back down.
Talk more – It’s said that a problem shared is a problem halved. Bottling up problems really does only make them worse. Talking about your pressures or worries to a family member, colleague, friend or therapist can be extremely therapeutic, and bring about an opportunity to receive support or advice.
Sleep well – Sleep can be a vicious cycle, as it’s one of the leading causes of stress, but also one of the leading symptoms. Getting an early night can do wonders, but stress can make it hard to get one in the first place. If this is the case, try using lavender oils, running a warm bath and avoiding any screen time in the couple of hours before bed.
Exercise everyday – When we exercise, the brain releases Endorphins. These make us feel happy and peaceful, so they’re the direct biological antidote to the stress-causing hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. Engaging in exercise also keeps the mind focused on something other than your worries.
Don’t rely on drink or drugs – Alcohol and drugs can be deceptive in that they seem to reduce your stress level in the moment when in actual fact they’re only making things worse. They may offer short-term respite from worries, but the resulting loss of minerals and nutrients, the tiredness, un-productivity and the poor use of time only ever exacerbate stress.
Try relaxation techniques – Many people are cynical about the benefits of activities like meditation, yoga and tai chi, but evidence has shown time and time again that they really do work. Give one of these activities a go; many gyms hold yoga and tai chi classes, or alternatively see if you can find a course online and learn from home.
Say no – One major factor that can contribute to stress is not knowing when to say no. Commonly, people become stressed by taking too much on, packing life full of duties and responsibilities and not leaving enough downtime. There’s no guilt or shame in getting some rest.
These quick tips are just a handful of ways you can begin to reduce your stress level and make things more manageable this National Stress Awareness Day. While we all feel stress at certain points in life, it’s not something you have to, or should, put up with. Making small changes to your lifestyle really can work wonders.
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