Written by Alison Canavan
Stress has become so normal in our modern day society that many of us are not even aware of how stressed we really are. On a scale of 1-10 (one being the best and 10 the worst) most of us are in the 6-10 bracket daily without even knowing it. We present with conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia and we live on coffee and sugar in an effort to get through the day. We are unable to focus and concentrate, our immune systems are low, and our adrenals are under enormous pressure.
Our skin, which is our largest organ, is also affected, as stress causes your body to produce the hormone cortisol leading to many imbalances and upsets including dry, oily or acne-prone skin and premature wrinkles. We visit the doctor and ask for these symptoms to be treated but what we really need to do is dig a little deeper and get to the root cause and what you will usually find is that stress is the main culprit!
We live in a society that values being busy as a badge of honour. We even try and outdo each other on the busy scale. A daily interaction can usually play out something like this:
Person A: Hi How are you?
Person B: I’m great, so incredibly busy though. I barely have time to breathe.
Person A: Yeah me too. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going I’m that busy, but sure it's great, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Person B: Oh me neither. Chat soon must dash….
Really you wouldn’t have it any other way??? Stress is without doubt the biggest killer of our time. Managing our stress is probably the most important thing we can do for our overall health and wellbeing and this needs a multi-pronged approach. Because stress affects our body, mind and spirit we need to nourish and nurture each of these, connecting the dots both for and within ourselves so we can have some peace and contentment instead of chaos and discontent.
I believe connection is the key. We have become so disconnected and busy that we are forgetting to live. We are ticking off to do lists yet we are not even present for the activities we are ticking off. We need to reconnect with ourselves, with each other and the world we live in.
Here are my top four tips for reducing stress daily:
MINDFUL EATING: When we are stressed our body’s central nervous system (CNS) is in the sympathetic mode, aka ‘fight or flight’. This is when your body is ready for action or an attack from something or someone. Your heart rate increases, the adrenals release hormones, glucose is released from the liver to provide more energy, your pupils dilate and your lungs widen their airways. When we are in this mode our digestive system also shuts down, which is why it’s so important to mindfully try and put your body into the para-sympathetic mode, aka ‘rest and digest’ before you eat to allow your organs and bodily functions to return to normal.
If you take 4-5 deep breaths before you eat this will help to put you into ‘rest and digest’ mode. Breathe in through your nose for the count of four, hold for four and breathe out through your mouth for four.
Try not to eat on the run, in front of a computer screen, in the car or in front of the TV. Our food nourishes us on every level and remember 'good food = good mood' so it's really important we give ourselves time to eat and enjoy our food.
WATCH YOUR SELF-TALK: Our inner critic is always waiting on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to knock us, and believe it or not, this can add to stress. It can be way too easy to give into that voice but if you work on becoming aware of your inner critic you will begin to catch it before it catches you! Your thoughts become feelings and your feelings become the energy that you live in and attract. When we talk about the universal law of attraction what we really mean is that you attract what you are. So tune into your feelings and change the language and tone you use with yourself.
EXERCISE: Energy constantly moves and when we become stressed, moving our bodies and in turn our energy helps to release some stress. Find an exercise you enjoy and watch your mood lift and lighten.
START YOUR DAY THE RIGHT WAY WITH GRATITUDE AND MEDITATION: Giving yourself the best start each day is really important. I start every day with a meditation (READ MORE HERE) to work on my inner being and help ground my energy before the day begins. I then write three things I’m grateful for into my diary. This helps to put me in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead.
Overall, it’s a little of everything and you need to find you own stress management formula which will change over time. Becoming aware and tuning into to how you are feeling is the key and the only way to do that is to check in often and ask yourself: how am I feeling?
Taking these small steps daily and making small habit changes will lead you on a path of true lasting health and wellbeing.