Stress is the enemy. While we could be uber productive and living the life of our dreams, stress comes and ruins all of that with its nonsense and distraction.
Stress is often defined as a mismatch between what is demanded of us and what we can cope with. Basically, when you’re stressed, you’re off balance and you need to settle yourself and your life or, as I like to call it’ getting it together’. A little stress is natural and necessary as it was designed (by your body) to warn you against threats and predators. Being on a constant stress buzz is not what nature intended.
I know that listing off a bunch of facts about stress won’t make it any easier however as I say quite often, knowledge is power. If we know what it’s doing to our bodies then we can develop more self-awareness around it and can eliminate it where possible.
* When our bodies are under a lot of pressure and stress, our brain produces more cortisol. This chemical is the enemy as it is what contributes to the development of depression, anxiety and generally poorer well-being. It also leads to weight gain as it slows down our metabolisms. More weight gain means more stress and it’s a vicious circle. Being conscious of our diet and you guessed it, keeping on top of exercise is a must-do.
* Stress is taking time off your life. It’s sad to say but actually it takes just 6 months for stress to manifest into health problems. This could be headaches, skin problems, insomnia or something more serious such as cancer or chronic depression.
* Your intelligence is being tampered with. Infact, stress is the most common cause for change in brain functioning. This is caused by a process called cortisol dominance. It is affecting your ability to think, be productive and take in information. If you’re busy thinking about the latest work or family issue, getting anxious and thinking about ONLY that then imagine the effect it’s having.
* Your quality of life is diminished. Sure, you’re tipping away through life but are you really living? Being in a stressed state means you’re not in a content one and that just isn’t good enough. It’s taking away your joy where and when it can. Being overcome by stress means you’re not living in the moment.
I have to say, I am a stressor. If I spill my tea, chip my nail varnish, lose my lipstick or run 20 seconds late for something, you’ll see the steam shooting out of my ears with, what looks like no sign of relief. Because of this challenge, I’ve had to come up with numerous ways (am still learning more) of eliminating stress and feeling like a sane (-ish) calm person.
Some may seem obvious, some may seem lame but mostly they’ll contribute to a calmer more productive you should you choose to adopt them.
1) Avoiding caffeine. I know I’m like a broken record but caffeine is not needed in your life. If your mind is already overly active then adding a bunch of energy to it in the form of a latte (however tasty it is) will push you over the edge. Get the decaf option or even better, have a calming tea with some chamomile.
2) Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. If you’re feeling rubbish, alcohol isn’t going to help. In fact, it’s going to make you feel a whole lot worse. I made this mistake for a while. After a busy and stressful day, I’d down a glass of white wine which would of course, taste lovely. The next day, my head would feel worse and the only way to cure the stress was to exercise it off, something there isn’t always time for.
3) Not eating sugar-rich foods. For the first time in my life last weekend, I noticed a sugar hangover taking over. I had a banging headache, was super thirsty and had some mood swings. It could’ve been the pavlova I’d devoured the night before which was SUPER tasty however not worth having the amount I did. Curb the sugar habits for a calmer brain… have a sugar-free truffle or bar instead.
4) Regular exercise. You don’t need me to tell you that exercise helps with stress. I’m going to tell you anyway. Move your ass, go for a walk or as I do, go to a zumba class and shake it to some latino tunes. I promise you’ll feel better afterwards and will have lost some of that cortisol we’ve been talking about.
5) Affirmations. The super-hero personal development positivity gurus in my life are Louise Hay and Susan Jeffers (sadly passed away). They both have a number of books that can change your life should you let them. One practice preached about in both books is the power of affirmations and the words we say to ourselves. Saying positive mantras can totally change your stress levels and balance your mood.
6) Mindfulness. I describe mindfulness as ‘learning how to stay in the moment, the same way people did naturally 20 years ago’. Now we need books for it sadly.
I read my first book on mindfulness last year. It’s called ‘mindfulness on the go’ and was written by Irish author ‘Padraig O’Morain‘. There are techniques that can be learned to stop minds from wandering off. Padraig shares some in his book. If you’re not into books then I highly recommend Youtube videos such as this one by John Kabat Zinn.
7) Forgetting about it all. Sometimes, ignoring what needs to be done is a good idea. At times, I’ll go for a nap, run a hot bath or fill my house with candles so I can have time to recoup and feel like myself again. It’s not burying your head in the sand as long as it doesn’t last for days. Limit it to a specific time frame. Oh and don’t be afraid to turn your phone off for a while.
If I had to be truly 100% honest about it, the number one method to kill stress is exercise. Stop it before it even starts by making this part of your routine. TRUST ME, you’ll feel much better.