Stress can help us respond to threats and danger but prolonged exposure to stress can have a negative impact mentally, physically and emotionally.
Fueling the body correctly with healthy and balanced nutrition is key to help combat stress. If we get overwhelmed we often forget to eat correctly and this can lead to a downward spiral in selecting sugary, high fatty foods as an instant pick me up. Instead opt for foods such as Brazil nuts that contain selenium, which may help to improve mood. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring, that are high in omega-3, eggs, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, turmeric, chamomile and yogurt are all foods thought to help reduce stress.
Exercising daily can have a positive impact on the mind as well as the body. This doesn’t have to involve pounding the pavements, lifting weights in a gym or turning yourself into a pretzel through copious amounts of stretching. Simpy introducing a daily walk even if you can only find time for 20 minutes first thing in a morning, during a lunch break or after work will stimulate blood flow and therefore a release of feel good endorphins in the body.
Taking time out is often over looked but is a key component to off set the effects of stress. Playing relaxing music can have a positive impact on the brain and help to lower blood pressure and cortisol- the hormone associated with stress. Alternatively meditative techniques such as focusing on breath can be influential over the mind and body as you oxygenate the blood, centre yourself and calm the mind which in turn is influential over the physical body. Utilising the box breathing technique is an effective strategy for stress intervention: Inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and repeat the process up to 7-10 rounds. Progressive Muscular Relaxation is another strategy that can aid in the calming of the mind and body. You focus on tensing a muscle group on the inward breath e.g. scrunch the toes and on your outward breath release the toes. This teaches the body a contrast of activation and relaxation and can be repeated through all of the muscle groups in the body.
Identifying your triggers of stress is fundamental in order to address what is creating the turmoil within your life. Once you are able to identify the cause you will be able to set strategies to avoid or lessen the effect. Ensure that you set time scales for task completion and don’t be afraid if you need to review your priorities in order to meet deadlines. Set yourself work boundaries to help prevent burn out and a negative impact upon you time, family time, social time etc. Give yourself permission to re-asses your goals and ultimately restructure your elements of your life. Remember that it is as much about the process as it is the end product, you are only human and may not always achieve what you want exactly when you want but learn from the process and evolve in mind and body.