Take the opportunity to diminish the stress in your life for a week by identifying where your personal stressors lie and thinking about steps you could use to reduce them.
The science behind stress
Biologically, stress is an important part of our body’s response system, allowing necessary action to be taken in the face of aversive external stimuli. However, in today’s constantly ‘on-the-go’ society, a surplus of potential stressors are thrown at us from every angle on almost a daily basis. It’s time to take a step back and say ‘enough is enough!’
When left unchecked chronic stress leads to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which has numerous detrimental effects on the body. Elevated cortisol can contribute to many problems such as; high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, muscle pain, and chest pain (not to mention a significant change in libido).
And that’s not all, chronic stress can affect your mental health just as significantly as physical health
It can manifest as anxiety, depression and issues with controlling anger, as well as concentration and motivational difficulties. These problems in turn make stressful situations even more difficult to manage.
Don’t panic! There are multiple ways to combat this ironic sabotage inflicted upon us by our own bodies.
One great way to relieve stress is by partaking in some ‘meditation in motion’, or rather, exercise. By concentrating solely on your movements while working hard in the gym or doing laps in the pool, you allow your mind to forget daily tensions and irritations, helping you to remain calm and clear-headed.
Exercising also stimulates the release of hormones known as endorphins, which leave you feeling more positive and have an analgesic effect, meaning that they reduce the perception of pain.
They also act as sedatives, so post exercising is the perfect time to relax. In this sense, you can use exercise to add more structure to you day and improve your sleep, which in turn can reduce stress.
Regular exercise has also been known to increase self-confidence and lessen the symptoms associated with mild anxiety and depression, suggesting that exercise could help to diminish stressors such as social pressure, allowing you to focus on other, more important things.
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
– Sydney J. Harris
Take a minute
If you find yourself worrying about the 10,000 things you have on your to do list and feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day, as if there is no way you could possibly complete anything… stop.
This is the perfect time to step back for a moment, be aware of your stress, and let it go. Exposure to very high stress can significantly impair your cognitive function, meaning that your learning and memory retrieval can be affected. Therefore, you’re less likely to be able to complete all of the tasks you’re stressed about efficiently.
It’s also important to remember to take things one step at a time. Don’t start new tasks before finishing others; this should help you avoid overloading yourself and keeps pressure to a healthy minimum.
Relaxing is a highly important part of your daily life, so when you feel the stress rising have a break, breathe it all away, and then continue with your day.
Stress can be mastered if you change your thinking habits; try to practise mindfulness rather than trying to ignore potential stressors. Mindfulness improves your sense of being and awareness of your own thoughts, rendering you better able to focus and allowing you to react to situations more slowly.
Regular practise of mindfulness has been shown to reduce amygdala activity, which is the brain area that elicits the stress response.
But how can I be mindful?
Lots of people hear about mindfulness but are unsure how to put it into practise. Put simply, mindfulness in terms of stress requires you to bring the current stressor vividly to mind, notice any emotional or physical sensations that arise while paying attention to where they are in your body with welcoming acceptance, and allow these sensations to be present with your breathing before bringing the meditation to a close. For more information on how to be mindful visit the link below.
Another important aspect of mindfulness is to be aware of others emotions and to be compassionate. So, during stress awareness week, try to pay attention to your colleagues, friends and family; notice how they appear to be feeling and set some time aside to let them talk to you. This is not only beneficial for them, but also therapeutic for yourself.
Use this week to educate yourself and others about attending to and reducing stress and aim to continue the practises you have learned into your everyday life.
There are plenty of online resources which you can use to continue your personal stress management.