How to Manage Stress
Chances are you’ve felt the effects of stress since lockdown was introduced. For many people, the uncertainty and lack of control connected with coronavirus is hard to cope with.
Stress affects everyone in different ways, and you are unique in what you perceive as a stressor. It may be family conflict, concern for the health of isolated loved ones, financial, or restriction of liberty. For many people, the pandemic has brought with it panic and anxiety.
Although you cannot control how much stress you’re exposed to, it is possible to manage your reaction to stress.
Remember what works for someone else may not suit you. So pick and choose from the following techniques to help you deal effectively with your stress, even in these unprecedented times.
The Physiology of Stress
Ongoing stress negatively affects your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol increase your heart rate and blood pressure. If these remain elevated over the long term, the results can be fatigue, sleep problems, digestive issues and lowered resistance to infection.
Stress Busting Techniques
- It’s normal to feel stressed when events are out of your control. Accept you can’t control the wider situation and focus instead on things you can influence, such as how to personally minimise your risk of coronavirus.
- Focus on the here and now. Anchoring yourself in the present moment by using mindfulness techniques can ensure you’re fully engaged with whatever it is you’re doing, and not distracted by anxious thoughts. Take a moment to pay attention only to your breath, and the smells, sounds and sights around you.
- Limit social media and don’t obsessively check the news, which inevitably increases anxiety. Although feeling connected to others can relieve stress, frequent message alerts may be counterproductive, especially if you feel pressure to immediately respond. If this is you, why not mute your alerts and read messages only at specific times, once or twice per day?
- Express your feelings calmly. Being cooped up with others, even loved ones, is a recipe for tension. Bottling up your feelings will only mean resentment and anger, and therefore stress, increase. Let others know how their actions are impacting on your mental wellbeing. But do so in a calm manner and offer constructive solutions rather than criticism. Aim to be assertive, not aggressive. Aggression and stress create a vicious cycle. If people in your life make mistakes, practice forgiveness and move on.
- Don’t overlook exercise. Put on some music and dance or go for a walk if you can. When you are exercising, focus on your breathing, which will distract you from cyclic stressful thoughts. Even exercising for as little as a minute boosts endorphins. Exercise will help you sleep better too, which is in itself a great stress-reliever.
- Don’t use alcohol or caffeine to counter stress. They may give you a boost in the short term but lead to blood sugar crashes which mean stress hormones are released to mobilise extra energy.
- Connect with others. Social isolation is stressful and even virtual chatting can seem impersonal to many people. If you’re not self-isolating, volunteering to help others, even if it’s something as simple as picking up some grocery items for a neighbour, can help take you away from your own worries for a while. And don’t allow coronavirus to dominate every conversation in group chats.
- Reframe the situation. There’s no denying the world is experiencing terrible events right now. But focus on the positives, such as the opportunity to slow down and simplify your life, reassess your priorities, and realise nature has amazing abilities to recover.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Shallow breaths signal to your body you’re in a stressful situation. Simply taking time out to breathe deeply into your abdomen, making the out breath slower and longer than the in breath, can be incredibly calming. Deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure and even improve immune function.
- Lastly, take responsibility for your stress. Stress may seem an inevitable result of events happening around you, but until you accept your role in creating and maintaining your personal stress, you won’t be able to take steps to avoid being controlled by it. It may help to write a stress journal to help you identify your personal stress triggers, as well as your reactions and whether they were helpful or unhelpful. This can help you choose effective strategies to respond to stress.
Functional Medicine and Stress
Functional Medicine recognises the enormous influence stress can have on physical health as well as mental wellbeing. A consultation will assess your health goals, lifestyle and nutrition, and may recommend functional tests to determine how your body is reacting to stress. Armed with this information, a personalised wellness strategy to you maximise your health and resilience to stress will be provided. Contact me today to start your journey.