Stress is something that we all experience to varying degrees throughout our life. One type of stress, known as eustress, is actually a positive type of stress and is used to help us achieve our goals in a positive and productive way. But what happens when the pressure and worry of everyday life starts to get on top of you? For some it might be work, for others finances; assignments, family, health – you name it, it is probably on someone’s list as a source of worry and frustration. The stress response that our bodies go through was designed millions of years ago to prepare ourselves for what is known as “fight or flight” – as in, do we stay and fight the dinosaur that’s about to attack or do we run away from it and hide in our cave? Now these days there are no dinosaurs stalking us but there are plenty of situations that can trigger the nervous system to prepare for this “fight or flight” response. And it’s when this survival system is triggered on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that our minds, bodies and spirits start to suffer and break down.
What if I told you that there is a way to handle the factors in your life that cause you stress and you can turn it all around so that you are in control instead of these worries being in control of you? And the best part is that you can adapt these tips to fit in with your lifestyle. When we handle our stress effectively and make a commitment to ourselves to put our health and wellbeing first, the positive benefits are amazing and priceless :
- We sleep well and have better memory and concentration
- Our digestive systems function well and our immune systems stay strong
- We are healthy and we are happy
- We get to enjoy a happy and balanced life where there is time for everything – work, play, relationships, study and fun
It’s all about making choices for our lives and making sure that these choices give us the results we want. So if what you want more of is to feel healthier, be happier and more energetic, spend more time having fun with the people you love and to feel more relaxed and positive then follow these tips to make your choices a reality.
1) Check your work/life balance: Do you spend more time at work than you do at home having some down time or relaxing with friends and family? Does your work require you to do work from home? For some of us it isn’t as easy as saying no, it may be part of your job description to work long hours or weekends, or you might own your own business so it feels like there’s always work to be done. How do we find that balance between getting our work done and having some time off and for creating boundaries between our careers and our personal lives?
- If you can, clearly define when and where you have to work. If you can do all your work from your workplace and leave it all there at the end of the day then that’s great. If it means doing work from home then have an area designated to do that work and stay away from it when you don’t need to be working, close the door or pack it all away so you aren’t distracted by it.
- Make a choice to not check emails or take work related phone calls after 6pm at night and before 8am in the morning.
- Pencil in time with your partner, friends and family every week and stick to your plans. Now it may not sound like the most appealing thing to schedule your social life, especially with your partner; but the reality is that it might be the answer to finding more balance in your life if you are unable to change your current work commitments.
- If you feel that too many hours at work or pressure from your job is affecting your quality of life, health or relationships then take steps to make some positive changes – review how you feel about your job and ask yourself is it really what you want to be doing? Are you happy? If not then reflect on the goal of where you want to be and what you want to do and make a plan to change this. If you love your job but the balance is all off then talk to you boss if you can; or make a timetable that you can stick to that includes equal measures of getting your job done and relaxing with some downtime; one way of doing this could be to ensure you are leaving the office at least once daily for some fresh air and sunshine.
2) Check your diet: There are certain foods that can heighten your stress response and make you feel wired, anxious, tired or just plain rubbish! On the other hand there are plenty of foods that can help you to feel calm, alert, productive and happy! Choose to ditch or at least minimize the depleting foods during times of stress and maximize the nourishing foods that are going to feed your nervous system for better outcomes like loads of energy and excellent sleep. Remember it’s all about finding the balance that suits your needs a lifestyle:
- Avoid or minimize your intake of highly caffienated drinks – stick to one coffee daily (preferrably before lunch); or cut coffee out and replace with dandelion tea (which tasted like coffee and is great for cleansing your liver). Avoid softdrinks, especially those with artifical sweeteners – replace with home made iced tea. Other refreshing and nourishing drinks include green or herbal tea, like chamomile or passionflower, or water with lemon/lime, ginger and or mint in it.
- Avoid or minimize your intake of alcohol. Stick to enjoying a drink only on the weekends and make your Monday to Friday alcohol free; make a choice to limit yourself to 1 or 2 at a time; or try something new and choose red wine which has the most health benefits of all alcholic drinks (in moderation of course!).
3) Check your lifestyle choices and make the necessary changes to increase your wellness and wellbeing: There are lots of little things we all do on a daily or weekly basis that can contribute to us not feeling so great; little habits that have the ability to skyrocket our stress and worry and impact our wellbeing. These could be things like staying up to late, incessant worry about things going on in your life or spending all your spare time glued to the computer screen for example. At the time they might not seem like a big deal or you are so used to doing them that you don’t even know you are – like being in a constant state of worry or anxiety! It’s when we let these things get on top of us or take over our lives that it can start affecting our health and wellbeing. The first step is to take note of the things that you think could be having a negative impact on your day to day happiness, keep a 7 day diary and take notes on the activities you do and how they make you feel (don’t forget to check if it is affecting your sleep too!) By creating body awareness we can learn to take control of these situations and choose solutions to increase the positive in your life. Some of the amazing health benefits you can look forward to are:
- Loads of energy from a great night sleep – falling asleep straight away and waking up refreshed and rejuvenated every day
- Strong immune system function
- Ability to cope better with life’s curveballs and challenges
- You’ll feel relaxed and happy knowing that you can enjoy every minute of your day
There are endless options of things to do and try when it comes to soothing your worries and increasing your feelings of relaxation and happiness! The best part about this is that it means there is something out there that will suit you, your personality and lifestyle – no forcing yourself to try something because you think it’s good for you! Making healthy choices is all about choosing what feels right for you and what fits with your lifestyle; and remember that if stress and anxiety are beginning to significantly impact your health, sleep, relationships or productivity, to seek the advice of a trusted health professional.