Are you stressed? Does the word Christmas give you a headache and make your heart beat slightly faster? Are the kids driving you to breaking point, at the same time you’re trying to meet deadlines at work before finishing for a well deserved “break”. Running round trying to buy a gift for Aunt Sally who you don’t even like, amongst crowds of people who feel the same, spending time and money they don’t have? Maybe it’s time to de-stress! And here are my tops tips on how to de-stress.
Stress, in evolutionary terms, has actually been vital to our survival. When exposed to a stressor, a grizzly bear for example, our body initiates an acute stress response. This response releases hormones like adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol which prepare our body to “fight or flight”. Heart beat increases, breathing quickens, blood vessels dilate in muscles, digestion slows; all factors which will help us to tackle the beast or run for our lives. These hormones and reactions return to normal after the perceived threat has passed.
But in today’s society we don’t come face to face with many grizzly bears (except maybe your boss on a Monday morning). Instead we are exposed to a constant number of environmental, physical and emotional stressors. All this exposure means our fight or flight response never gets turned off; imagine cortisol on a drip. You can go on for a while like this but eventually something’s going to give and it will most likely be your health.
What Are The Negative Effects of Stress?
Some potential negative affects of stress include:
- Cardiovascular issues: high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack.
- Muscoskeletal problems.
- Weight gain.
- Digestive problems
How To De-Stress
I think those are good reasons to tackle your stress levels. Now we’re all thinking deserted beach, somewhere in the Caribbean, cocktail in hand. As amazing as that would be, effects will only be temporary. You need to incorporate de-stress tactics into daily life. My stress levels are very low. This is what I do to keep them that way.
- Remove the source of stress. If I can’t remove it, I find ways to work with it or accept it. My Christmas for example is not working in hospitality anymore, no tree, no decorations, no cards, a total of 2 bought presents. It might sound bah humbug but I will be with family, eating whatever we fancy and doing whatever we like for a few days without a care in the world. Bliss!
- I do yoga. And lots of it. Maybe you don’t have time to do yoga every day but I’m sure you can find 5 minutes to sit quietly. Focus on taking some deep breaths and let out a few big sighs whilst you’re at it. It will help to normalise breathing and put you in a more relaxed state.
- Exercise! My favourite is weights or HIIT to calm the nerves but for some it may be as simple as going for a walk. Ironically, exercise is actually an acute stressor but regular activity can actually help us to better manage stressful events in the long term. Unfortunately when things get hectic, it’s often the gym session which goes first. Don’t fall down that slippery slope and check out January’s gym and personal training offer here. Exercise also helps to release endorphins which are our happy hormones.
But mostly its about finding a little bit of time for you, something you can enjoy and relax into. Do it regularly, not once in a while. Mix it up. A relaxing meal one evening, a massage from your partner the next. An early night with a good book or perhaps a trip to the seaside to get some fresh sea air. Whatever you do, make time for YOU!