Life can be full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations and demands and it may not always go the way you want. For many people, stress has become ‘normal’. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help us perform under pressure and motivate us to do our best.
Stress is a normal response to events that make us feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When we sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ reaction, or the stress response. But when we’re constantly running in emergency mode, our mind and body suffer. Not only that but we don’t often recognise it until it’s too late.
My theory is recognise, reduce and react
We can protect ourselves by recognising the signs and symptoms of stress early. They include:
• Feeling ‘flat out’
• Constant negative thoughts
• Feeling overwhelmed
• No motivation or inspiration
• Worried all the time
• Sleeping badly
• Not being able to relax – your mind is racing all the time
• Being ‘on edge’
• Panic attacks
• Over loaded with to-do’s
• Low self-esteem, feeling lonely, worthless, avoiding others
• Low on energy
• Chest pain
• Loss of libido
• Frequent colds, low immune system
• Dry mouth, ringing in the ear, sweaty or cold hands or feet
• Clenching your jaw or grinding teeth
• Changes to your appetite, hungry all the time or never feeling hungry at all
One of the major cause of stress is in fact ourselves! Yep, I said it. It’s us. We take on too much, can’t say no, feel obligated, you can enter all the other excuses here ……………………..
I say f*ck that! We are stressing ourselves out! No one else is making us stressed and it’s affecting our emotions, behaviours, thinking ability and physical health.
So is it worth it? Well, let’s take a look at how stress is effectively managing us:
• Mental health- depression, anxiety
• Heart disease, high blood pressure
• Heart attacks, stroke
• Eating disorders, obesity, anorexia, bulimia
• Sexual dysfunction and menstrual problems
• Skin and hair – acne, hair loss, eczema for examples
• Gut issues
Personally, I don’t think any of the above are worth it and think we can take control back from that stress monster. We can do a better job of this!
Taking steps to reduce stress’ harmful effects – it’s all about the way we manage our stress that matters:
1. Press pause – it may seem self-explanatory but think about when you are watching your favourite movie and someone interrupts you or the phone rings or you have to get up to go pee or grab a snack. You press pause on the remote so you don’t miss out on anything, so you can catch up and come back to it when you’re ready. In some stressful situations, we can’t press a pause button and miraculously time slows down (just like The Matrix) BUT you can slow your reaction to it and not get all hot and bothered as that is increasing the effects of stress on you. No storm lasts forever, so, in the stressful situations, imagine you are pressing the pause button on a remote next time you find yourself in a situation that’s heated or out of control and…
2. Take a breath. Say to yourself: “I am aware I am breathing in, I am aware I am breathing out.” Slow down your breath. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. Surprisingly, it slows down the situation and you are better able to deal with it. Your body and mind will thank you. I do yoga as often as I can and although my version of meditation is boxing, rugby or hockey, there are some great apps for meditation and relaxation – check out headspace. Alternatively listen to your favourite music whenever you can. Dancing in underwear is optional but not recommended while driving or on public transport or bicycle.
3. AAA: Action, Assign, Abandon – I am referring to those nasty little time zappers – emails. Those and ‘to-do’ lists. I would much rather have to don’t lists. Reduce, reduce, reduce it some more. It’s about taking away, not adding here. So, I have only 3 email folders or ‘lists’ for those of us who can’t live without our lists. Three headings people: Action, Assign or Abandon. Action is for you to action and assign – you delegate it to someone and abandon. Do not do it! One of my favourite sayings is if it’s not life giving – don’t give it life.