You may not be able to avoid stress altogether, but you can learn resilience against it, and lessen the negative effects of stress.

Stress, especially that relating to work, is stated as the second most frequent health problem, impacting one third of employed people in the European Union (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).  Although stress is a part of life, and a little bit won’t do you any harm, raised  levels of stress without down time will affect your health.  This week’s blog has a quick peek into the science before giving you lots of tools and techniques to use.

The Science
Cortisol is known as the ‘stress’ hormone which is secreted by the adrenal cortex in reaction to experiencing stress.  This response is intended to get the body ready for ‘fight or flight’ when threatened (Andrews, 2016). When there is a flood of cortisol into the body, however, it affects our whole body and mind.  When the stressful situation is removed the cortisol levels, and affects from it, start to settle. When cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can be damaging both physically and mentally.  Over time, high levels can cause issues with weight gain, high blood pressure, disrupted sleep, and negatively impact the mood and energy levels. It can also lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as resulting in poor lifestyle choices which are used as coping strategies, such as alcohol, poor diet and eating too much  (Thorpe, 2017; Walter, 2015; McKwen, 2008; Lundberg, 2005).

The Warning Signs

  • You feel tired and lacking energy
  • You’re losing your motivation
  • You snap at people too often
  • Your sleep is poor
  • You’re putting on weight around your midriff
  • You’re relying on alcohol or food to get you through the day

My Recommended Staples for keeping the mind & body in check

  • Eat well: join our Healthy Humans for regular inspiration
  • Drink relaxing herbal teas, like camomile, before a stressful event
  • Sip water slowly to bring your blood pressure down and keep you hydrated
  • Use soothing bath or shower oils: check out the beautiful range from Neale’s Yard Remedies
  • Relax with the energy of a crystal
  • Practice Meditation: proven to shift the brain patterns and promote calmness
  • Get mindful in nature: use all of your senses to enjoy the wonderful natural world
  • Focus your mind: colouring, painting, reading or knitting
  • Practice Yoga: proven to support a calmer mind, and give you a toned body
  • Drop your shoulders: we often find our bodies are tense in response to stress, consciously dropping your shoulders and relaxing your body will let your brain know you’re relaxed
  • Square breathing: breathing in a deep, steady way will help your body and brain regain calmness.
    Technique: breath in deeply for the count of 2 seconds whilst you visualise drawing the first line of a square. Hold the breath in for 2 seconds whilst you visualise drawing the second line of a square, change the colour of each line if you like.  Let the breath out over the count of 2 seconds, whilst you visualise drawing the third line of the square, and hold for 2 whilst you visualise drawing the final line.  Repeat as many times as you need to.
  • Take a walk: clear your mind, remove yourself from the stressful situation and give yourself chance to come back to a calmer place.  Combine this with mindfulness for an extra calming boost

Tools & Techniques in the Moment

If you do find yourself in a stressful situation, here are some tools and techniques from MindWell that you can use in the moment:

  • 7 Step problem solving:
    If you identify a practical problem which can be tackled, use the ‘Seven step problem-solving technique’ to work through possible solutions.
  • Worry Tree:
    Use ‘The Worry tree’ sheet to decide whether some of your stresses are problems which can be tackled or if you can’t actually do anything about certain issues and need to let go of them.
  • Stress Diary:
    Keeping a diary of when you experience stress during the day can help you to understand the causes of stress in your life and help you manage them
  • STOP:
    This is a tool used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is very effective at helping you to reframe and let go of stress or anxiety

Dress to de stress
Free flowing and beautiful materials that feel great on your skin can be more physically comfortable and put you psychologically more at ease.

Energise with white and bright colours and calm with greens and pastel shades

Pets for Therapy
There’s been a huge increase in pets on wards, in day centres and nursing homes, and for good reason.  This proven therapy is now showing up in cafes all over the country, with cats or dogs pottering around and snuggling up whilst you enjoy a relaxing cuppa.

Whatever you choose to do, know that you are in control and only you can create the conditions for a less stressful life.

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