There is a lot of talk about stress these days and how bad it is for us, but a little bit of stress is ok,
even helpful. We need a certain amount to drive us through our days, to satisfy the need to get
things done and achieve our goals. A boost of the stress hormones in the body can be just what we
need to meet a deadline, smash out a great presentation or even write an interesting blog!
Due to stress strengthening the neuron connection in our brains, we can become more efficient,
more productive and more resilient to certain situations. Our memory and attention can improve,
so overall, we can feel more energised.
With a little bit of stress happening in the body our immune system can also strengthen due to the
release of the chemical interleukin. This can help protect us from those viruses making their way
around the office.
However, when we start to lose control, when life becomes overwhelming, when big things happen
and stress levels remain high for long periods of time, stress can become destructive and it starts
having an impact on our wellbeing.
We can start experiencing disturbed sleep, inflammation starts happening and we start feeling the
physical symptoms, such as headaches or back pain or IBS. Our mood can become low or irritable,
our productivity and creativity may reduce, and this can start influencing the quality of our work.
Our immunity weakens and we need to take days off to recover from the viruses that jump in whilst
our defences are down.
Our behaviours can change too. The ‘usual’ coping strategies can take hold where we start craving
all the foods that are bad for us and consume more caffeine to get through the days or more wine to
relax into the evenings. Rather than moving our bodies as we would normally, we may retreat to
our sofas and end up staying up late attached to screens for comfort. We get in a vicious cycle of
not feeling good and it can be a hard one to break.
Therefore, having things already in place for when our stress levels begin to increase passed the
point of feeling good is vital. How we do this is different for all of us, but whatever we do, it must be
done regularly and consistently so that, when life does get tough, we can ride the storm more
effectively without being left feeling burnt out.
In my recent blog post ‘Reflexology for Stress and Anxiety’ I recommend three things to try in the moment of
feeling that panicky overwhelm –
– Take a breath
– Find the calm
It is important to also consider our methods of managing our stress in a way that we see it as a
preventative rather than a cure. It is much better to wear the support than to heal the broken bone.
So, what makes you feel good? What things can you do every day / week / month to ensure you
have time to feel more grounded and connected with yourself, so that your stress levels don’t get
carried away? When will you schedule these in and who will support it to ensure that they happen?
Here are some ideas –
The most important thing to remember is that we are simple creatures, so it doesn’t take much to
satisfy our basic human needs to keep our wellbeing and levels of stress in check. Therefore, we
don’t need to complicate things, overthink it or throw lots of money at it.
Find something that you enjoy which keeps you moving. Whether that be going to the gym, walking,
running, cycling, dancing, yoga, climbing, playing team sports, swimming, martial arts, there are so
many options. It needs to be something you ENJOY though, otherwise you won’t want to keep doing
What we consume when we are coping with stress has a big impact on how we feel. At the end of a
long busy day to choose quick and easy can feel like our only option. My go to is pizza or fish and
chips. This is absolutely fine, when done now and then. Our comfort foods, even though they may
not be considered physically nourishing, can be just what we need to feel better emotionally (as long
as we don’t attach a load of guilt to it afterwards.) The thing is though, when we are stressed, our
digestive system is already working overtime, so gorging on fatty carbohydrates and sugary foods
too much won’t generally help us.
Therefore, try scheduling in one day a month or week where you batch cook a few of your favourite
healthier dishes. Having these available as your quick and easy options can be super beneficial.
Already having something in the freezer that makes you feel good physically and emotionally will
bode well for you in the long run. The ‘future you’ will definitely thank the ‘present you’ for being so
thoughtful and organised!
Time to relax
When do you feel the most relaxed? Whilst reading a book? Walking in nature? Taking a hot bath?
Cuddling a pet? Singing a favourite song? Whatever takes you to your ‘happy place’ – do it –
Training the mind
Our thoughts create a physiological response in the body. Like any other muscle in the body we can
look to train the brain. It is possible to change the neural pathways that have been created over the
years, developing certain behaviours and coping strategies. By building new pathways we can
change the way we perceive and react to stress.
Taking some quiet moments during our days to sit and focus on simply being and working to manage
our thoughts, with positivity and control, can have huge benefits to our wellbeing and how we
handle stressful situations. Schedule in 5-15 minutes a day to do this. Perhaps you can get up just a
little bit earlier, include it in your lunchtime or as part of your bedtime routine.
Finding your Therapy
Natural therapies such as massage, reflexology, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy or
herbology, to name but a few, are all tools we can use to access our own bodies healing capabilities.
It is the opportunity to check in regularly to maintain a sense of equilibrium in the body and then
regain some balance when things are a little out of kilter. Each person is different as to which
therapy / therapist resonates with them but, once we find one that works for us, it is worth
incorporating it into our monthly selfcare plan.
We spend money on insuring, servicing and MOT’ing our cars to keep them safe and road worthy,
yet we often claim we cannot afford to do the same for our bodies. Unfortunately, if we don’t
prioritise and invest in our own maintenance then it ends up costing a whole lot more to get
ourselves ‘fixed’. The way we use our time and money is always a choice. They are commonly used
as the excuse as to why we do not look after ourselves – “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford it” but
this is only because we are choosing to apply our time and money in different ways that may not be
quite so beneficial to our health.
Finding simple ways to manage our stress levels and invest in our wellbeing, can mean that stress
becomes something we recognise as the thing that helps us through our days, and not something
that destroys us. When we feel that rush of the stress response, we can react more positively, so we
use it to drive us and not feel like we need to pull away from it and hide.