Stress. It creeps up on us and becomes all consuming before we even realise what has happened.
It stops us from living in the moment and has massive impact on our health and the people around us. It has links to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It has an impact on the efficiency of our immune system - making us more susceptible to illness and disease as well as having connections to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Stress, is quite honestly, one of our biggest concerns of the 21st century.
Everyone reacts differently to different stress and the way we react can vary. The symptoms of stress can range from sleeping problems to digestive issues and headaches to fatigue and body aches. Stress can change our appetite and eating patterns (over eating, under eating) and cause mood swings. Obviously these symptoms will all have a counter effect further impacting the health of our system and our sense of well being.
For some, stress is something we don’t even realise we are dealing with. It’s a gradual increase of things that we have to fit onto our day, our mind is gradually filled with more and more thoughts, and the pace in which we live and execute gradually becomes more erratic. Whereas, for others, there is this overwhelming sense of doom and dread: things seem never ending, our mind is racing and we just aren’t able to think clearly or ever really able to finish anything.
No matter what your reaction, firstly you need to recognise that there is an issue. Allocating time to sit still for a couple of minutes and connect to your breath will really allow for you to become aware of your inner state and therefore notice how you are acting, reacting and responding to the life you are leading. Then, with this newfound awareness we can start to see more clearly and ask the questions: how are we? Can we change things up? How can we allow for ourselves to become more stress-free and for our bodies to come into a healthier, more balanced state?
So once we’ve acknowledged where we are at, what can we do to help reduce the stress and the health implications? My favourite go-tos include:
Getting out and walking in nature
The impact of nature on our nervous system is hugely underestimated, as well as the benefits of walking. The repetitive, low impact mechanics of walking is something our mind, body and soul love. It allows for our mind to find clarity as our body isn’t under any strain and we aren’t generally having to think or over complicate our next move. It allows for our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to be ‘activated’ - the PNS is the part of the nervous system that is also known as our ‘rest and digest’, ‘repair and recover’ or ‘feed and breed’ state - and therefore, as suggested by the ‘names’ it is in this state when our bodies can come into a more restorative state and begin to allow for the effects of stress to be reversed.
Meditation and Journaling
As mentioned above, allowing yourself to sit in stillness for a couple of minutes will allow for recognition of where you are at that moment in time and therefore able to react accordingly. Your meditation can simply be this - sitting and being in the moment. Alternatively, adding in some breath work so that you can learn to control the breath, i.e. slow it down, as well as allowing the mind to come to a focal point, which will once again help activate the PNS and be a reminder that you are in control.
Spending a couple of moments journaling: whether this be list of gratitude, notes to remember throughout the day, anything that is continuously racing through the mind, or things you are working to achieve will help you stay more focused on the important things in life, rather then getting overwhelmed with the all consuming aspects of life.
Laughing and surrounding yourself with love
For me this is one of the most powerful ways to help deal with stress. Surrounding yourself with love, whether it be people you love, situations you love or things you love, will help lower your stress levels dramatically. Once again it helps activate your PNS, which will help you realign, remember the important things in life and keep your grounded and focused. Laughing is known to reduce stress hormones, increase the circulation of antibodies - helping improve the efficiency of our immune system as well as lowering blood pressure, and increasing muscle function.
Making sure you allocate time to include these activities into you regular schedule will help you deal with and hopefully prevent stress overload. Overall becoming a healthier, happier, more balance and better version of yourself.