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What is modern day stress?

Stress is a really emotive subject, some people can get understandably upset when there's a suggestion they may be 'stressed'? It may help to know that stress has been deemed by The World Health Organisation as the health epidemic of the twenty-first century and it needs to be taken really seriously. It's ok to consider yourself stressed, there's no weakness in this as it's now a standard part of modern day life. Firstly we should talk about the stress response, which is a built-in protective mechanism called the Fight or Flight Response, designed primarily for our survival. So when we sense or perceive danger, the alarm centre in our brain known as the amygdala signals the body to provide immediate energy so we can remain and 'fight' or we can run away in 'flight'. Have you ever had an elevated heart rate that wasn't exercise related, experienced sweaty palms, shallow breathing or muscle tension? It's likely that these could have been related to a stressful situation, you just didn't associate the two. It's a very automatic response that happens in seconds, the brain and body kicking into protection mode before you've even worked out what you might be dealing with!

All well and good in cave man days when we needed to protect ourselves from lions, but less helpful for modern day stresses which could be running late for work, family demands, working too hard, relationship issues, our home environment and so much more. Sadly if we can't address our stress triggers, we can put ourselves under emotional and physical pressure with the accumulation of stress hormones keeping our bodies on high alert. This can then leave us open to a large variety of illnesses, diseases and disorders which can affect our quality of life like depression, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and gastrointestinal problems amongst others. So how can we manage stress? Ideally we look to identify our 'stressors' and we can then consciously 'choose' how we respond to them! We can either 'change' the stressful situation (by avoiding/or altering it) or we can choose to 'change' our reaction to the stressor (by adapting/accepting it). Change the stressful situation: Avoid / Alter Change the reaction to the stressor: Adapt / Accept Let's say a member of your wider family stresses you out! For the sake of good relations you can't 'avoid' them and you can't 'alter' the way they are. But what you can do is either 'adapt' your reaction to them, by focusing on the positives, finding empathy with why they might be the way they are OR you can learn to 'accept' they are what they are, so choose to reframe it to something more positive rather than get stressed out by it. It may be that actually they're an excellent cook and you can look forward to a delicious meal, they may be brilliant with your children, any positive you can find jump on it and use this to reduce your stress levels which will often start rising well before you're due to even spend time with them. In addition, there are a variety of other ways to help manage stress which you can try:

  • Movement - go for a walk, dance, run, do anything that elevates your heart rate and triggers the release of endorphins that help make you feel good. You can also try 1 minute of vigorous activity to help your body process built up stress

  • Connections - chat to a friend, share your stresses, be around people you love and ask for their help to remove the burden

  • Eat well - eat whole foods including plenty of vegetables, grains, pulses, salads, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds to give you plenty of vitamins, minerals and energy whilst keeping your blood sugar balanced

  • Sleep - ensure a good sleep routine and try to get 8 hours a night, sleep is imperative for rest, repairing and recuperation and it has become massively undervalued

  • Relaxation - try meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, reading, stretching, anything that helps your body switch from fight & flight and back into the relaxed state, lowering heart rate and slowing down your racing thoughts

I am a mindset & behaviour change coach, for help in dealing with stress please contact me or to book your FREE 15 minute consultation visit my contact page.

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