15 Ways to Reduce Chronic Stress
Fighting to get through the day? Read This!
Stress, the ‘S’ word that seems to be taking over our everyday vocabulary. We are a world of fast-paced, success orientated, multi-taskers who can’t get enough of the rat race but instinctively despise it at the same time. We overload ourselves with intense pressures, whilst maintaining and caring for family, along with cooking, cleaning and getting ourselves ready to battle another day.
So at what point does it become detrimental? Is all stress bad? What EXACTLY is stress and how is it determined?
Firstly, let’s define stress in this context “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016) Hmm, so a little broad but you get the picture. States of stress can be determined as chronic or acute.
Acute stress responses induce the beloved ‘fight or flight response’, an immediate subconscious or conscious reaction to a threat of our existence. External and internal trigger examples would be:
Isolation or crowdingHungerDangerImagining a threatInfectionIncreased technological stimulation
Chronic stress is increasing at disturbing rates worldwide; as technology is advancing our civilization is now living in a virtual instantaneous world of communication and expectation. This is distinguished over a period of time and disguised as normal in our society:
Continuous work pressures
Financial hardship or worries
Health problems and addiction
(University of Maryland Medical Centre, 2013)
Now let’s look briefly the physiological cascade effect this has on our bodies:
Ok so if that is a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, put simply this is its effect:
Promotes gluconeogenesis (gluco = glucose, neo = new, gensis = synthesis e.g. new glucose molecules) for ATP production, ultimately increasing blood glucose levels
Glucose is used as a primary neurological energy source therefore supplying the brain with energy to increase reflexes, sensual stimulation and circulation.
Stimulates protein degradation, especially muscle, so that amino acids can be used for gluconeogenesis
Promotes lipolysis (lipo = fat, lysis = breakdown) to fatty acids for energy
Encourages an immunosuppressive effect when tissue injury is prevalent; releasing cortisol, suppressing antibodies, neutrophils (white blood cells) and inflammatory responses
So what does this mean for you?
It means that your body starts working overtime, the brain can’t comprehend the difference between running from a tiger or being stuck in traffic; it just knows you’re stressed!
Chronic stress is linked to lowered immunity, weight gain/loss, over-eating/under-eating, fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, infertility, gastrointestinal issues, slow healing, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure abnormalities, anxiety, depression, hormonal dysregulation… the list goes on and of course, a domino effect continues!
Not all stress is bad; we need these reactions to happen when we are running for our lives and under intense acute stressors or meeting deadlines but not every single day. Most of us have no idea that this is happening while we are stuck in traffic, preparing for an important meeting, trying to get the kids to sleep, running late to an event or a fight with a partner – we need to learn how to get in control.
Here are some coping strategies that you should seriously try out:
Start your day with a zing! Wake up early, exercise, have a healthy breakfast, do your affirmations and feel good when you wake up! If this sounds too much, start with one thing each week and progress forward.
Start a journal. Need to get things off your chest? Write them down and hide it away. Before long you will see how far you have progressed, let it all out!
Fake it until you make it - Smile! Research suggests putting a pencil in your mouth forces your brain to think it’s happy! (McGonigal, 2012) Just smile it’s a powerful tool
Get outside, for the love of nature! Get outside and smell the roses (trust me it changes everything). Look up at the sky, breathe in some fresh air, remember who you are and think of all the magic that happens around you every day.
Get creative, find an outlet – have you always liked to draw? Sing in the shower? Splash paint around? Play the piano? Find what you love and just do it. Enough with the excuses – you need to do what makes you happy (because you are totally worth it!)
Meditation and Deep Breathing Exercises play a huge role in stress reduction. It significantly increases grey matter, aids with concentration, memory recall, cognitive, sensory and emotional processing in addition to a large array of overall health benefits (P A Balaji, 2012). Your body cannot be in both sympathetic (stressed) or parasympathetic (relaxed) mode at the same time, it’s one or the other. Continue this breathwork when you feel a heavy moment coming on.
Yoga also promotes concentration, vision, mindfulness, strength, increased oxygen cellular supply, improved RNA replication, immunity, reduced cardiovascular and diabetes risk + much more! (P A Balaji, 2012)
Yoga’s not your thing? Get moving my friends! Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, it’s worth every minute.
You are what you eat, when you eat well, you feel well and it supplies your body with the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients it needs to, you know... actually live and work properly!
Get a decent sleep. Everyone knows this but a lot of us fail to do it, try your hardest to find a way to get to sleep on time and stay asleep e.g. hypnosis, meditation, not eating late, reading before bed, eliminating screens an hour before bed, reducing all the lights in the house before bed, drinking relaxing herbal teas or avoiding caffeine after 12pm.
Find out what’s really causing your stress. Hate your job? Fighting with your partner? In debt? Want a holiday? Working too long of hours? Hate the way your life is right now because you're tired? Figure it out and start making coping strategies.
Find support, you are not alone dear one! Confide in a close friend or family member, book in with a counsellor or join a club. There is also an app called ‘meet-up’ which is great for meeting new people and best of all you pick what you’re into!
Go watch a funny movie, laughing is the best medicine.
Appreciate yourself, you are beautiful/handsome and one of a kind. Stop looking in the mirror and picking at things, stop creating the reality that you don’t like yourself. It’s an illusion; trust me the beautiful models don’t look like that in real life! Every day tell yourself you are worthy, successful, beautiful and grateful, soon you will see the world with a different perception.
Lastly, give yourself a break. Just do the best you can each day. You’re doing a great job whether you realize it or not.
Please let us know if you have your own strategies, we would love to hear from you!
Oxford Dictionaries. (2016). Definition of stress. Retrieved Oct 05, 2016, from Oxford Dictionaries Online: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/stress
P A Balaji, S. R. (2012, Oct 04). Physiological Effects of Yogic Practices and Transcendental Meditation in Health and Disease. PubMed .
Sherwood, L. (2013). Human Physiology - From Cells to Systems (9th Edition). Boston, MA 02210: CENGAGE Learning.
University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2013, Jan 30). Stress. (M. &. Harvey Simon, Editor) Retrieved 10 05, 2016, from University of Maryland Medical centre: http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress