It can be hard to tell just how much stress is affecting your quality of life… We’re all so accustomed to daily stresses that we often just accept that’s how life goes. But excessive stress really isn’t good for your health long term! Hip & Healthy contributor, Carole Armitage, reveals how stress manifests in different ways and 8 handy ways to reduce stress levels for a healthier, happier you!
Stress is such a tricky problem for many people… often its hard to diagnose and getting rid of stress is near impossible in this world! I don’t want to send everyone into a turmoil of depression as they start ticking off all the symptoms on their fingers and toes and self diagnose ‘stressed!’… When in reality we are most probably great! We also need to be aware that our bodies ARE equipped to deal with stress, it secretes the necessary hormones adrenaline and cortisol to both ready and prepare the body for action whether thats fight or flight and then gives us the right amount of oomph to get it done. So really what we are focusing our energies on below is when those ‘normal’ demands exceed a level that is no longer viable for the body to handle and when that happens, is when problems to our mental, physical state occur and finding solutions to improve that.
So to get serious for a moment, stress can be a big problem, one that affects every single individual on this planet. The goal is to learn how not to let it dictate our lives and simply be a passenger to our life instead of being the driving force, because left unchecked it can go from small niggles to our health and wellbeing to become huge health risks, and that’s where words like increased chances of obesity, diabetes, depression, heart attacks and life expectancy start raising their ugly heads, and as stress can come from every avenue of our life, like work, relationships, love, life, bereavements, happiness, deadlines, expectations, money and everything else in between, it makes it hard work to navigate the seas to understand where best to start.
Stress can affect the way we feel, behave, even as stated above, how our bodies function on a cellular level and yet the experience is different per person. Its important that we can recognise symptoms that may be linked to stress in order to minimise its impact, quite often because everyone is so different and people handle stress in varying ways, symptoms can be vague and could also be similar to medical conditions. If you are not sure, always reach out to a medical professional and ask. Saying that this list is not so you can start ticking them off, and worrying more, its simply a source of information so we are armed with knowledge to get on top of any potential stress and put that invisible cloak back on its hanger and feel better about ourself.
These range from becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody, or feeling overwhelmed, Feeling out of sorts and as though we have lost or losing control and need it back. So being able to relax and quiet the mind feels impossible. A build of this can start the spiral of negative thought pattern, usually aimed at ourselves as we are our own worst enemy at times and the bad is always easier to believe than positive and if not managed can play havoc with our self esteem, and entertain feelings of loneliness, worthlessness and depression so we end up avoiding people which perpetuates the cycle and is very hard to get out of.
We may experience bouts of lethargy, sucked of all energy and headaches, which no amount of water will get rid of. As well as upset stomachs, including nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, or general aches, pains and tense muscles. Sometimes in acute cases, you may feel chest pains or a rapid heart beat (if at this point, go and see a doctor). Colds and infections become more frequent as our immune system is under attack. Depending on the stress we can either go one of two ways where we may feel we need more sleep to being an insomniac and living on 2 to 3 hours a night. As a result this can increase our levels of nervousness, shaking, ringing in the ears, loss of sexual desire and/or ability, cold or sweaty hands and feet, excess sweating, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing and unconsciously clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
Ever felt like all the worst things possible were happening at once and you could not catch a break? Or worse still you have too many thoughts racing around that you cant pinpoint anything so you feel dizzy? These are ways in which we exhibit our stresses, as well as occasional forgetfulness and disorganisation. Not being able to focus or poor judgement so in turn we become pessimistic and only see the negative side to things which if not stopped is just an unbroken cycle of difficulty.
This is an interesting one in a way, as one person may see a response as just human attributes but when you look closely, they are a form of stress, for example procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities, or a change in appetite whether thats not eating or eating too much. Change in patterns like increasing our social status and drinking more, maybe even doing drugs or smoking cigarettes from being a social smoker to a regular 20 a day. All these are forms of exhibiting nervous stressed out behaviour. Similar to nail biting, fidgeting and pacing.
So, because stress is such a huge topic and I could be here for days giving you every piece of information, I have tailored this specific article to show 8 great and easy ways that everyone can do to minimise stress levels in our lives, now who doesn’t want that?
Or simply taking a moment and breathing in a deep lungful of air is a proven way to help bring a sense of calm to a stressed out body. If we can be present and slow down (in general), it allows us to tune into our body and allow us to understand where our stress is being held. If that isn’t enough, another great way is to use visualisation techniques: By focusing on the area and imagining you are untying the knots and letting them go so that you are relaxed, really helps break the binds and bring us back to a simpler stressless place.
Music and dance are fabulous ways to de-stress, by putting on the cheesiest feel good music and having a 30 sec dance party really helps ease the muscles, lower the blood pressure and get that feel good feeling pumping through us! So no matter how bad the dancing skills are, move! Listen to the music, swing to the rhythm and sing out loud to the song and get lost in the moment, and feel the stresses ebb away beat by beautiful beat.
No one can be sad or down when people are laughing, its nigh on impossible to be both, happiness wins out each and every time, so put on a comedy, be with someone that makes you laugh, read a funny book and let the crows feet crinkle away… Smiling and laughter instantly starts to relax the face, head and in turn tension starts to ease, so go on have a giggle!
Everyone loves a good hug, physical contact is such a huge part of helping relieve stress, the connection of another human being, makes us unconsciously share our pain, stops our feelings of aloneness and even if at that one moment, there isn’t anyone, hugging oneself has the same affect. So go, find a huggy friend/loved one (we all have one) and get a big bear hug
Only works if you like animals and not allergic, but generally for the animal lovers out there, this is a potent remedy to cure any and all feelings of stress and start to put our bodies back onto the right path of positivity. Animals have such a powerful influence on soothing our soul, by releasing a relaxation hormone it helps reduce our cortisol levels (stress hormone) and lowers blood pressure, so if you don’t have a pet, find someone that does and give them a big playful pet.
Yes; you heard me, go to the spa… men and women alike this is beneficial for both, going for a massage or some spa treatment, a facial, a mud pack, will help lower our stress levels and make us feel better, relax our muscles and help us combat the lethargy and fatigue and start our feel good pattern. Taking time out for ourselves is not a privilege done once in a blue moon. It should be a necessity to assist in our general wellbeing. So do as often as you can, or simply pamper yourself at home or make a day of it with a bunch of friends.
One of the most important ways to help manage and relieve stress is to get a good night’s sleep, fresh sheets, comfy pillows. A place to rest and allow our body to restore, renew and heal through the night so we feel on top form the next day. This is one of the most important things in life, without a good night’s sleep, we are half the person we are, meant to be so get a wiggle on and get a good 7-9 hours of sleep and reap the benefits immediately!
Might be the last but certainly not the least, any kind of exercise helps reduce levels of stress on our bodies and we don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Something is always something and no matter what we do or where we do it, whether it’s in our own lounge or a sports hall, in the park; Any form of exercise will help relieve tension and stress in the body and send endorphins (happy hormones) through our body and no one can beat those! For the newbies; Start small, get some fresh air, walk the dog, take the kids to the park and/or play hopscotch or piggyback races with the kids, go swimming, do yoga, find some friends and get a jogging group together or workout in the park. Just getting our body mobile is a great boost to the immune system and reduces stress, who wouldn’t want that?
Words by Carole Armitage: Personal Trainer, Wellness Consultant and Founder of Carole’s Kitchen