“I’m stressed!” is so much part of our everyday language that it’s socially acceptable that were sometimes moody and sleep deprived. BUT there is the tolerable stress that motivates and propels us to get stuff done – parenting, work deadlines, housework. And there is that insidious stress that subtly builds up, persisting over time that is harmful to our health and relationships. This chronic stress can spiral out of control and lead to serious problems like anxiety and depression if not recognised early.
“These days, our stresses are measured not in moments with mountain lions, but in hours, days, and sometimes months with hectic workplaces, screaming toddlers, and money problems.” (pg. 176, John Medina, Brain Rules).
Too often, the build up of stress is so subtle that many people don’t even realise it’s becoming out of control. The first step to reducing stress is recognising how it’s affecting us, so we can do something about it. Researchers have identified three factors that when combined, suggest a person is stressed out!
1. Body response to the stress.
What do you feel in your body? What indicators suggest that you are stressed? Have friends, family, colleagues noticed your increasing stress levels?
2. Thinking that something terrible will happen if you face a situation.
Are you avoiding situations or experiences? Would you rather find ways to avoid a situation than experience it?
3. Loss of control.
Do you feel a sense of helplessness when thinking about the situation? Do you believe you have no control in influencing the outcome or how you feel about a situation?
The good news is that your brain is so resilient and capable of being strengthened in ways that can help you deal with stress more effectively. There is so much more proven research on strategies that work on increasing your productivity and brain health to tackle stress.
Reduce stress with everyday changes:
1. Eat healthy – foods rich in vitamins and minerals to nourish the body. Check your alcohol and caffeine intake.
2. Get moving – start small and slowly increase activity and exercise levels.
3. Sleep well – adjust your habits to improve sleep quality.
4. Find enjoyment – doing things you like lowers stress hormones.
5. Reach out – talking to family and friends can provide validation and encourage us to make change.
6. Breathe – to elicit relaxation response.
7. Journal – to observe patterns in how you think, feel, behave.
8. Connecting with nature – has a positive impact on mood.