If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” – George F. Burns
10 Easy ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being
In today’s world we are constantly distracted. Wherever we go, and whatever we do, we see messages designed to get us to perform an action of some sort. We are permanently “switched on” – we are constantly online, available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without ever being able to “switch off. We are literally attached to our electronic devices. On top of this, there are so many more stressors such as a hectic, demanding job, a chaotic home life, bills and deadlines, bad habits such as unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking, crazy politics and world events which are horrific and frightening, which all lead to a mountain of stress. When stress gets too high, it causes us to be unhappy and unhealthy, and even ill. Too much stress can cause conditions such as anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, anger, irritation and memory loss, to mention only a few.
However, the good news is we can have a great influence on how stressed we get or how often this happens simply by the things we do, and the way we choose to live.
Developing smart habits for dealing with stressful situations can transform the way we live in a positive way, so that we no longer need to feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, angry, sleep deprived, lacking in self-esteem or any of the other many symptoms and illness which are a result of stress. Changing only one habit a month, will lead to a lot of changes over the course of a year, leaving you feeling empowered and in control of your own life.
Stress is a Survival Mechanism
While stress is actually a primitive survival response without which the human race would not have survived, when we are stressed, our bodies go into the “fight or flight” mode. Hormones such as adrenalin, and oxytocin, cortisol, norepinephrine, amongst others are released into the blood stream to give us energy to either “fight” or run away (“flight”) (video). This is very useful when confronted with a Saber Tooth tiger or perhaps when a car comes racing at you at 100 miles/hour from your blind spot. However – not so useful when confronted with any of our daily modern day stressors, such as those unpaid bills, troublesome teenagers or angry bosses. In survival mode, the optimal amounts of cortisol, for example, can be life saving. It helps to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure, while regulating immunity, digestion and growth. However, when you stew on a problem, the body continuously releases cortisol, and too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease libido, produce acne, contribute to obesity and many of todays modern illnesses.
We have evolved but our stress response hasn’t
So, although those things that trigger our stress have evolved (we don’t generally run the risk of bumping into a Saber Tooth tiger or a threatening foreign tribe), our physical responses to them haven’t. When we run or fight our said predator, all those hormones are expelled from the body once the danger is gone. However, today we tend to keep ruminating over those issues – going over them again and again in our minds, and the stress hormones keep circulating in our bodies. And while we are living inside that stress bubble, which is caused by a psychological interpretation of the situation at hand, all sorts of physical effects manifest that help to make life seem that little bit harder to cope with and can lead to really serious consequences.
How we can cope
So now that we know how stress works, let’s look at some of the things we can do to keep ourselves balanced, in control and generally in a positive state. Of-course there will be times when things get a bit tough, and that’s o.k. – that’s part of life and when we have strategies to deal with these things, we can always make sure we can re-balance. For example, students writing end year exams will generally “turn up the pressure” to get through their work, and this may be necessary for a short time. However, once those exams are done, they can make sure they take some time to recuperate and re-balance themselves using some of these techniques. The same applies of busy executives faced with important deadlines, or stressed mums who have a million things to do.
- Try the “Stop Technique” (click here to get a free copy of the “Stop Technique! ” . This is so simple and can easily be incorporated into our daily lives, and yet it is deceptively powerful!
- Have a blast! Do something you enjoy everyday – play with your kids, go for a run, a swim, a game of football or golf, watch a movie – whatever you enjoy!
- Connect with a friend – When we connect with others, our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin – also known as the cuddle hormone – which gives us that feel good feeling (click here to read more about how oxytocin is our body’s way of telling us to reach out for help during stress)
- Diet, sleep and exercise may seem obvious, but oh so important – (click here to read more)
- Go outside – again, may seem obvious, but so easy and makes such a difference to the way you feel – plain, simple fresh air. This is linked to our body’s need for vitamin D and our body’s way of telling us to “go outside”! When you feel the fresh air or the warm sunshine against your skin and take a few deep breaths, you instantly feel more relaxed and positive.
- Take a warm shower or bath – could a bit difficult in the office, I agree! But maybe once you get home – warm water has a very calming effect – even better if you can add a few fragranced candles and some soft music!
- Go out of your way to help somebody else – takes the focus off ourselves when we can see there are always others that are in a worse situation than ourselves and releases those feel good hormones.
- Here’s a big one – Do you sometimes feel like you’re going NUTS? Well, change those negative useless thoughts (NUTS!!), and replace them with positive affirmations – something that’s useful to you – for example, when I’m stressed, I do the Stop Technique, and tell myself “I am calm & relaxed, I am calm & relaxed, I can cope” – I keep telling myself this, until I actually feel it. So much better than telling myself “I’m so stressed, I can’t cope” and then going into a negative downward spin.
- Gratitude – Thankfully, stress is not so much a result of what is going on in our life as it is about how we perceive those things. The beauty about this is that we have some control over how we perceive the world around us. But one of the most powerful ways to return balance to the body is through the constant practice of gratitude. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., and professor at the University of California, Davis, has written the first major scientific study on gratitude, its causes, and potential impact on human health. In his work entitled Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Dr. Emmons concluded that “grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.” Further benefits of practicing gratitude include an increased ability to cope with stress, a stronger immune function leading to quicker recovery from illness, and an increased feeling of connectedness, which helps to improve relationships.
- Be early. I will admit this can be challenging, especially if you have little ones (or even bigger ones!) to get ready. But being late can be very stressful. Try to leave earlier by getting ready earlier, or by scheduling more space between events. Things always take longer than normal, so schedule some buffer time: extra time to get ready, to commute, to do errands before you need to be somewhere, to attend a meeting before another scheduled appointment. If you get somewhere early, it’s good to have some reading material.
These are just some of the things we can do to manage stress. Like most things, we need practise. We have plenty of opportunities every day to practise these steps. You don’t have to practise them all at once. You can choose to practise one a day, one a week or even one a month – it’s completely up to you. It takes practise but, if you put in the work, you will reap the benefits.
Stress is a serious issue that eats away at our health, our relationships and our well-being.
To learn more about how to cope and manage the stress in your life, visit www.c-mindsolutions.com or contact me for an appointment now!
Mind Solutions empowers individuals, groups, adults and teens – to create solutions for positive change, overcome challenges and struggles, develop new coping strategies and believe in themselves and their abilities.
Using cutting edge tools of psychology I create a unique and tailored solution to help my clients transform their lives and their relationships.
I have a natural affinity to connect with people, and a deep sense of empathy and understanding. My training as a hypnotherapist, family therapist and counselor place me in a position to help my clients achieve faster, long lasting results. My extensive life experiences, ranging from an abusive relationship, to the challenges of living in different countries and cultures, to cross cultural marriage and raising a blended family place me in a unique position of helping others reach their goals and change their lives.
I help my clients move beyond old thinking and behaviour patterns and help them see their own inner strength and the power of choice.
I incorporate twenty years of teaching and adult education in my coaching and therapy practice, empowering clients to focus on forward movement and development. I engage in a co-participatory manner and devote all my intellect, experience and caring to assist my clients.
Mind Solutions empowers executives, senior managers and business owners who feel isolated at the top with nobody to talk to and under pressure to perform, to reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance and become more confident leaders. Using cutting edge tools of psychology Corina creates a unique and tailored solution to help her clients transform their lives and their business.