How to combat stress

Health

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Stress is harmful for your health, as you probably already know. But how exactly does it affect your body and how can you combat stress? We did some investigating and here’s what we found.


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A healthy amount of stress is normal. We sometimes need stress to perform, to keep us alert and help us react quickly. So, eliminating all stress is impossible. That said, you must try to keep your stress levels in check and make time afterwards to allow your body and mind to recover. How much stress you can cope with and how to best recover is different for everyone. So, you need to find what works for you.

Stress raises acid levels in the body, which means it has to process more waste products. Sustained periods of stress negatively impact your heart and blood vessels as well as your immune system, causing all kinds of health issues. Your metabolism slows down, your sleep is disrupted, you are more emotional; in short, your quality of life decreases. What’s more, people who are stressed are no fun to be around. Bottom line: maintain a healthy balance between work and relaxation. We have listed some tips below to help you on your way.

Exercise is important

Stress causes your body to release adrenaline. Exercise helps bring these raised adrenaline levels down again. What’s more, during exercise, endorphins are released, creating a sense of wellbeing.

But don’t go crazy when you start exercising. Choose activities that suit your fitness level. Just walking, for instance, already has a huge effect. Did you know, by the way, that by exercising outdoors, it’s even easier to empty your mind?

Relaxing activities such as yoga or Pilates are also great options. Their focus on breathing and mindful awareness of your body as you exercise lowers your heart rate, cortisol levels and blood pressure.

You can learn to put things into perspective

Try putting your stressors into perspective where possible. Say you have been invited to a party but won’t be able to attend that day and you are already stressing out over the reaction of the birthday girl or boy. Don’t. Just say ‘I’m really sorry, but I won’t be able to make it’ and then let it go. If the birthday girl or boy is disappointed, then that is her or his problem, not yours. This may sound harsh, but truth is, you can’t please everyone. That never works and what’s more, takes a lot of energy.

Is there something in particular that is stressing you out? Ask yourself this question: will I still be this unhappy or disappointed in six months’ time? Often, this alone helps you put things into perspective. However, if you do have a serious problem, write about it, talk about it and try to make a plan of action. Most problems can be divided into smaller problems that are easier to solve.

Don’t be afraid to savour life. Give yourself time to completely lose yourself in the moment. For instance, really enjoy your bike ride and be grateful. This will make you feel more positive about life. A great tip is to count your blessings every night before going to sleep. What made you happy that day, what are you grateful for? You will notice a change in your mindset within a few days of doing this and you will sleep better.

Are you a bit of worrier and does all this seem too difficult to you? Set some time aside specifically for worrying, a fixed time you allow yourself to fully focus on your problem, to have a good moan. On the condition that as soon as you have done so you also try to come up with a way to improve the situation so your worry time ends on a positive note.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

A healthy diet is vital to help your body deal with stress effectively. When you are stressed, your body uses more vitamins and minerals, which is why you need to eat nutricious foods like nuts, vegetables and fruit.

Try to avoid caffeine, added sugars and nicotine. These stimulate the production of cortisol and adrenaline, and as you have just read, those are the hormones that raise your stress levels. Your body is an amazing machine. For instance, the brain will kickstart a number of calming processes when needed, processes that are also disrupted when you consume caffeine and too much sugar.

A sugary energy drink or strong cup of coffee may seem like good options for a quick energy boost, but prolonged consumption of these drinks causes sleep disruption and increased anxiety, panic and restlessness.

Set priorities

Preparation, preparation, preparation. If you prepare properly, your plan of action will have a better chance of success. It all starts with a tidy environment. A chaotic desk makes for a chaotic mind. And, in the same vein, switch off your email notifications and put away your mobile phone so you can concentrate 100% on your tasks and won’t be too easily distracted. After finishing a task, you can quickly check and process your emails.

A to-do list creates order and peace of mind. Just work your way down your list, ticking things off as you complete them. Seeing what you have achieved in black and white will give you a nice feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. Also, multitasking is unnatural, we are not built to do multiple things at once. So, try to give your full attention to one thing at a time. You will be surprised at how much faster and more accurately you can work, or to put it differently, how much more productive you are. 

Slowing down is all the rage these days and we are completely on board with this trend. It makes you calmer and helps you cope better with stress.

It’s all about relaxation

Sure, there are no musts, but regular relaxation is important. Make a point of scheduling this into your diary and don’t think ‘I’ll get round to it when I get five minutes’ because chances are that your diary is already full. It’s okay to say no to people, even if you are not doing anything at the time. There is nothing wrong with choosing yourself. Set clear boundaries and stay in control of your free time. Taking some time out allows you to forget about your problems for a while. Just watch your stress levels drop!

Plan something that re-energises you in your relaxation time. Whether it’s exercise, having a bath, reading a book or just watching the clouds float by in your garden, anything goes. Switch off your mobile phone for a while. This reduces stimulation, allowing you to unwind more easily.


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