We all know that stress is a part of life especially in this day and age. Everything is fast paced, people want things yesterday and there is little room for error. Sometimes you feel like you’re the hamster in the wheel, chasing that little bit of food dangling in front of you always just out of reach. Learning to slow down, relax and take note of your energy and indeed guard your energy is one of the most useful things you can do for your health.
Stress can really inhibit your health. There is an increase of cortisol when you are in a stressed state. It is a very important chemical and response if you were being chased by a bear, you need the surge of adrenalin to help you run away. The problem is our body reacts in the same way irrelevant if there is an actual bear or a perceived bear (an angry boss and looming deadlines.) Constantly remaining in a state of stress physiologically wears down your body and has a flow on effect to your health. Therefore, we should be careful at managing our stressors or learning to remain calm in a stressful situation. A simple task to evaluate your current stress load is to list anything you know that is stressing you out, on one side of a page and then write on the other side a list of what is feeding into you, making you feel lifted, relaxed or loved. If one side is longer than the other then we need to take some steps to rectify this. On the stressor side, then separate the events or items into two new categories:
- That you have any control over to change
- Those you don't.
If there is anything you can do to eliminate stress endeavour to do so. For example I know I am a terrible driver and when I am stressed I am more likely to have an accident, because I know this I make sure I always leave with plenty of time to get to work as a crash will only add more stress to my plate.
Stress can disguise itself in many ways. It could be linked in the simple word, yes. Yes, I can do that. Yes, I’ll be there, yes, I wouldn’t want to miss out on that opportunity. Instead of saying yes, all the time without thinking how it will affect you, practice saying, let me think about it and get back to you. For anyone who is a serial people pleaser this is the best sentence to learn, as a flat-out NO is a little scary.
Stress can also be a loved one for a moment in time or it could be an activity that would usually fill you up. The main stress in your life may be that you are simply doing too much and need to relieve the pressure of packing your days too full and draining your natural energy for your creative mind to work.
Now let’s look at how to handle stress you have no control over to change, examples of this could be immediate sickness, change in income i.e. loss of employment, financial issues, a break up. This list can really go on.
The first step I think that is necessary is to voice your concern in a reasonable way to anyone who you can trust as a support. This could be a loved one, family member, friend or colleague. As my dad always says a problem shared is a problem halved. When you talk about your issues often other people will have more insight and ideas you can’t see because you are too emotionally charged or involved in the crisis.
I think it’s important to accept what is happening and reflect if there is any lesson to be learned from your hardship. This can be a painful tool of self-reflection but it truly is what has helped me mature and grow. As soon as we take responsibility for our actions we can learn from them. If there are any preventative measures we can take to avoid this happening again its worth learning, or we will just keep learning the same lesson in new and more painful ways.
The next step is to actually increase our gratitude, being thankful for all that is going right. This will help bring perspective and stop a mental spiral of self-pity, then finally with a clear mind and a little support we need to take action to do anything within our power to make steps forward, confront the problem and make steps to amend the underlying issue.
For example, upskilling, getting more education or seeking out a better job where you are valued, going to a councillor, doctor, dentist or whoever we believe has the knowledge to help us.
In more serious events of stress and hardship where none of the above will seem any good the one thing you can do is hold on to hope, hope for a better day, a brighter future and choose to believe that whatever is happening today won’t last forever. Like my boyfriend says who has one of the most stressful jobs I know of and one of the calmest person to be around. You just have to look chaos straight in the eye. Take a breath and calmly direct yourself and others finding solutions as you navigate your way through these unchartered events.
I know stress sucks and I would rather live a life with no confrontation or pain, but my own stressful life events have pushed me to understand myself and others around me. I hope these insights have helped and wish you all the best on your own personal health and wellness journey.
As always if you need any further help or support especially in the area of fitness please don’t hesitate to reach out.