Stress. We all expereince it. We all dislike it. But what is it? And what can we do to have less of it? National Stress Awareness Day is here, and it’s a day to really embrace the harsh realities of experiencing stress. We also think it’s important to understand thy enemy. Learn about what stress does to our bodies. And also learn some really convenient ways to feel more relaxed and at ease.
We can thank a lady called Carole Spiers for National Stress Awareness Day. She dedicated her career to finding solutions to work-related stress. Back in 1998 Carole felt an effective way to shed light on the effects of stress, especially in the workplace, was to organise its own awareness day.
But what acutally is stress? Stress is a psychological and physical response According to the Mental Health Foundation, it’s the degree to which we “feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable”. Essentially, it’s the body’s reaction to harmful situations. When we feel threatened the body experiences a chemical reaction to help us act in a way to avoid injury. This is the “fight or flight” reaction. When stress response kicks in, the heart rate rises, breathing quickens, and blood pressure increases. . The body primes itself to react and protect itself. You can see what was once a basic survival mechanism has evolved into what we call stress in the modern-day.
Today our stress response triggers because we feel under pressure. We may feel we have too few resources to cope with too many demands. That pressure can arise from uncontrollable factors including life events, illness, unemployment, or difficult living conditions. For example, working from home due to COVID-19 and having to juggle work and kids!
And how does stress affect the body? Long term, persistent stress can wear the body down over time. It can make you sick, both mentally and physically. The hormone called cortisol causes the stress response in the body. Essentially, cortisol is the body’s key stress hormone. It plays a number of key roles in the body, and so constantly high-stress levels – i.e. high cortisol levels – can throw the body out of balance. This is because cortisol plays a role in many bodily functions including sleep cycles, keeps inflammation down, regulates blood pressure, manages how the body uses carb, fats and proteins, raises blood sugar levels and boosts energy levels for pressurised situations.
If the body is under constant stress, it’s easy to see why it can have such sweeping impacts on the mind and body. Too much stress can have reactions such as trouble sleeping, weight gain, raised levels of inflammation, anxiety, concentration, memory issues, digestion problems and heart disease.
10 Easy Things We Can Do To Reduce Stress
Not all of these will work for everyone, however, most who handle stress well tend to be adopting a number of these handy stress-busters. Find your combo and blend it into your daily routine…
Heading to the gym doesn’t just provide a burst of feel-good endorphins. It also lowers cortisol levels in the body, which is directly responsible for the feeling of stress! In times like these, just adding a daily walk into the routine can really boost the mood.
Try Some Plant Based Aids
Plant based supplements really can help the body deal with stress. Some civilisations have been using natural plant anti-stressors called adaptogens, like ashwagandha, for many hundreds of years. More recently, hemp-derived CBD has come on the scene too. You can also look into lemon balm, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and others. Many are available on the GreenBox site, too.
Ease Up On Caffeine
This will only apply to a few but if you go through more than five cups of coffee a day, and you’re always stressed, caffeine could be the cause. Try reducing to one a day over a few weeks, and see how you feel.
Have A Mindful 5 Minute Meditation
Sometimes it can feel like the day is rushing past and you hardly have time to breath. These are the days when we need a five minute circuit breaker the most. Find a quiet space (even if it’s the toilet!) and give yourself five. Do nothing. Just five minutes to be alone with your thoughts. It will help you feel more in control.
Have A Good Laugh
At the end of a busy and stressful day, try flicking on a feel-good romcom, or an old favourite, like Friends. The News at Ten can wait another day! This will release endorphins and help calm the mind.
Learn How To Love The Word No
Stress can build up from taking on too much. It’s not giving up if you opt not to take on another responsibility at work or in the family. Reasonable people will understand when you say you’ve hit the threshold. So, when it’s getting a bit much, learn to be comfortable saying “no” to another request on your time. It feels good, promise!
Make Time For A Cuddle
You read that right. Intimacy relieves stress, and not just cuddles. It’s a brilliant excuse for some private time with a loved one.
Switch To Classic FM
Classical music, as well as the sounds of nature, can serve to quickly calm the mind. Slow-paced music can encourage the body to relax, lower heart rates and reduce cortisol levels.
Find A Furry Friend
Interacting with a cuddly cat or dog can help to release oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone. Many of us don’t have a pet at home, but fear not, because the 21st century has your back. Try signing up for Borrow My Doggy to do exactly that!
Write It Down
If you find the brain keeps whirring and thinking about all the things you need to remember to do tomorrow, get a notepad. Write down all those things. It will let the brain relax and let go of trying to remember it all. It’s simple, but it works wonders. You can even keep a notepad by the bedside in case you have a bout of brain-whirr when trying to sleep.
By Paul Gurney, Co-Founder of GreenBox, the online plant based wellness store (https://www.greenbox.co.uk)