Everyone has stress. It’s a normal part of life. Whether it’s meeting deadlines at work or mental stress such as illness to loved one, stress can have a negative impact on your mind and body. In response to these strains the stress hormone cortisol is released in the body, increasing blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. This is intended to help your body deal effectively to high pressure situations. However when stress occurs consistently and you fail to counter its effect, stress can affect your health and well being. Stress eventually manifests negative symptoms such as fatigue or depression.
There are plenty of scientific studies to support this. The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that mental burnout significantly affected mental performance. Runners were intentionally stressed by being forced to complete a difficult computer test before taking part in a 3km race. The race time for runners who had taken the test were on average 15 seconds slower compared to those who had not taken it.
Another study involving 10,308 men and women working in London Civil service departments showed that those exposed to work stressors over a period of 14 years were more than twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for combination of diabetes high, blood pressure and obesity.
Here are 8 ways to help you reduce stress.
Sleep – Ensuring you get adequate sleep will help reduce stress. Before you go to sleep ensure all electrical lights are switched off in the room. As hard as it sounds, that means avoid going on your phone for long periods before you go to sleep!
Ensure you are getting the minimum sleep you need for you body to function optimally. On average this is 8 hours per night but differs from person to person. Also stick to a consistent sleeping schedule. This will help set your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality.
Exercise – Regular exercise is a great way to relieve stress. The hour or two that you focus on training can really help get you mind off things. Regular exercise helps both the mind and the body.
Take a walk – You don’t need to have a runner’s high to relieve stress. A simple walk in the morning can release feel good chemicals in the brain to get you ready for yours days work ahead.
Listen to music – Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. You can also blow off some steam by listening to some more upbeat tunes.
Alter a situation – If you can’t avoid a stressful situation try to alter it. Often this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as death or a serious illness. In these cases its best to accept things as they are. Try to be positive and look for the upside in any given situation.
Reduce caffeine and sugar – The temporary ‘highs’ caffeine and sugar provide can end with a crash to mood and energy. Reducing coffee and soft drinks will help you sleep better and make you feel more relaxed.
Healthy diet – We all know having a healthy diet is important. Well nourished bodies will cope better with stress. Be mindful of what you eat. Fish oils are great for cognitive brain function and they also inhibit the adrenal activations elicited by mental stress.
Drink some tea – Put the kettle on and make a black tea. A study at University College London found that drinking black tea has a calming effect on the stress hormones levels in the body. The common sense way to relax actually works!