How are you feeling today? Really?
Don’t fool yourself with the standard automatic ‘I’m fine’ but really check in and notice whether you’re feeling calm and in control or stressed, frazzled and exhausted.
Stress, or more correctly, the stress response is a major nutrient and energy zapper. It affects how almost every aspect of the body functions and uses up a vast amount of vital nutrients and so can be a factor in nutritional deficiencies. It also prevents the body from repairing and restoring itself which can have a broader health impact.
Sometimes referred to as the fight or flight response, the stress response is essentially a self-defense mechanism that evolved way back to help human beings respond to a threat or a perceived threat. Back in those days a threat was likely to be a life or death situation, like coming across a wild animal that wants you to be its next tasty meal.
When it’s triggered appropriately the stress response is a vital, intelligent action of the body, but it isn’t intended to be a permanent state of being and our physiology hasn’t evolved as quickly as our lifestyle has changed.
These days there are almost endless causes of stress, some of which you may find surprising, but, no matter what causes the stress, the physiological response is the same. The numerous changes in the body include changes to blood pressure, heart rate, hormone production and digestive efficiency.
These 5 simple tips can help you reduce the negative effects of stress and restore some calm.
1 – Hydrate
Dehydration is incredibly stressful for the body and at the same time stress is incredibly dehydrating. It’s a vicious circle!
A dehydrated body has trillions of cells all crying out for fresh, clean water that just isn’t coming. This may not be something we would consider as a stress but our body perceives it that way so dehydration can trigger the stress response.
Making a conscious effort to stay hydrated will help to reduce the dehydrating effects of stress and break the vicious circle.
2 – Unwind properly
If you read thriller novels or watch horror films that have you on the edge of your seat, you’ll very likely be triggering a stress response rather than relaxing and unwinding. I told you you might be surprised didn’t I?
The feeling you get when you’re on the edge of your seat (or hiding behind a cushion) waiting for the next twist or turn in the plot, that’s part of the stress response!
Instead choose soothing music or a happy book or film to help you unwind at the end of the day.
3 – Breathe
I’m almost sure I can hear you saying ‘but I am breathing’ and yes you are, but how are you breathing? All too often our breath is too fast, too shallow.
Take some time to sit and breathe deeply in and slowly out. Counting the breath is also a good way of focusing the mind on the here and now.
It helps break the stress cycle, a bit like pushing a reset button.
4 – Meditate
Meditation has a positive effect on blood pressure, heart rate, hormone production and regulation and digestion. The opposite of what happens during the stress response.
Stress affects your ability to think clearly and impairs problem solving skills.
So when you’re busy and struggling with a problem and find yourself saying ‘I don’t have time to meditate’ you should turn this on its head and think ‘I don’t have time not to meditate’.
Daily meditation practice can have a profound impact on health and wellbeing, by creating some inner peace and calm your body can begin to heal itself.
5 – Laughter is the best medicine!
Laughing releases emotions helping reduce stress and tension but even better still, laughing or smiling triggers the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These are the ones that make you feel happy.
They’re triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, and the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake, it’s the positioning of the facial muscles that counts. So if you can’t muster up a good laugh, try faking a smile!
A final thought
The stress response isn’t a voluntary action, whenever there is a threat or perceived threat your body responds by triggering a stress response whether you acknowledge it or not.
So try not to sweep your worries under the carpet. Be honest with yourself and recognise when stress is creeping in so that you can start to do something positive about it.
Don’t just say ‘I’m fine, I’m coping’, instead try out these simple tips to help reduce the effects of stress.
They won’t take away the cause of the stress, but they won’t cost you anything and you might just see an increase in your energy levels, focus and productivity as a result of the inner calm you create.
If you suspect your diet and lifestyle are significantly zapping your inner calm and would like to discuss how health & nutrition coaching can help please click here to drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you