4 Simple Stress Management Tips
For a happier and healthier life
Stress and associated hormones used to be a really useful tool back in simpler and more primitive times. Hunger hormones drove us to hunt and gather, adrenaline and cortisol helped us in “fight or flight” situations, and melatonin helped us get a good nights sleep.
Now your hunger hormones are out of whack because there is an abundance of food that is easily accessible and highly processed. Even if you’re eating whole foods, it’s not as though you’ve gathered nuts, fruits and vegetables yourself, or hunted and dressed your own beef. At work, you’ve got needy clients, inconsiderate colleagues, demanding bosses, and family and financial stresses at home that trigger constant “micro-stresses” throughout the days, weeks and months.
Once you’ve gotten home after sunset, the lights are on in the house, you’re unwinding by watching some kind of screen – TV, computer, tablet, or phone. Your eyes are bombarded with signals that keep the brain active, so it takes you ages to get to sleep.
Getting your body out of the Sympathetic or “flight or fight” state, of the nervous system is crucial for your body and mind. The Para-Sympathetic state is also known as “rest and digest”, and requires some simple stress management techniques
- Deep Breathing – How do you breathe when you are anxious, stressed, or panicked? Short and sharp, right? Are you reading this while sitting down? How are you breathing now? Deep breathing means diaphragmatic breathing, so if you’re hunched over your laptop or device, it’s really hard to breathe deeply. Sit up or stand up straight, draw a deep breath into your belly, and exhale all that tension and stress away.
- Cup of soothing tea – not only is a herbal tea going to soothe the digestive system, relax your muscles, and trigger pleasant sense receptors, just the act of making a cup of tea will relieve your stress levels. Step away from the computer or TV, pop the kettle on, do some deep breathing while you’re waiting for it to boil (or just before if you’re a tea purist), pop in the tea bag or leaves, and watch the tea change to just the right colour you like. Now you can head back and do what you were doing before, but with a clearer mind, body and soul.
- Exercise and Activity – just as deep breathing gets the oxygen flowing throughout the body and brain, exercise and activity is a great physical way to manage and relieve stress. Be mindful that high intensity training is also a stress on the body that can take it’s toll. So depending on your stress load, you can start with light activity such as a walk around the block, preferably detouring through a park for greenery and fresh air. Low impact exercise like yoga and pilates are good, and although boxing can be cardio intensive it’s still considered low impact on the body. Higher intensity exercise might be a full body circuit workout, or heavy weightlifting. High intensity workouts require more recovery management (a topic for another day).
- Quality Sleep – Remember that melatonin I mentioned at the start? It’s created by your endocrine system when natural light reduces, and the body prepares for sleep. In modern life, there is an abundance of UNnatural light. Use the night setting on your devices, use blue blocking lenses, or ideally don’t use devices after dinner. Get into a sleep routine 60-90mins before bed time – make a cup of tea, get into your PJs, get into bed, do some deep breathing, and ready your body for restful sleep. Aim to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, targeting 7-9 hours depending on what you need.
These are some simple tips and tools you can use to manage the symptoms of stress. However, for more long-term mental and physical health, you do need to eventually manage the causes of stress – whether it be family, financial, career, workplace, environmental, political… and the list goes on and on. This is where mindset and outlook needs to be addressed, but these can take a bit longer, and might need some professional and qualified assistance.
Before Alan became a highly qualified Health and Fitness Coach, he spent 10 years in finance and corporate life. This makes him the perfect expert in how to balance looking after yourself with a busy and stressful lifestyle. Book in your complimentary coaching call now