Simple Techniques to Alleviate Stress
Tired and stressed? We have all felt that way but it can be managed naturally through simple techniques such as breathing and challenging the way we think about stress.
Our psychologist Grace talks about stress and provides some simple tips on how to manage it.
What is stress?
We talk so much about it: “I had a stressful day”; “My job is very stressful”; “I don’t spend time with the kids as when I get home I am far too stressed”.
Stress can be defined as a physiological state that prepares our body (the organism) for action. In other words, stress is our emotional and physical reaction to pressure.
That pressure can originate from external factors such as illness, death, an earthquake, having a demanding job, study etc. Also, that pressure can be caused by the way we relate to our environment.
Our bodies are ‘wired’ to respond to stress in ways that will protect us from danger. For example, when we face everyday life demands such as a demanding boss or tight deadlines it can interpret those everyday hassles as life threats. As a result, the hypothalamus (a miniscule region at the base of our brain) sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts our adrenal glands, to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Once the supposed threat has passed, hormone levels are likely to return to normal. However, if we are often passing the message to our body that it needs to get ready to fight our fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.
The challenge is that long-term activation of the stress-response system combined with the overexposure to cortisol (and other stress hormones), can destabilize/confuse our body’s processes. As a result we are at risk of developing health problems such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, weight gain, memory, concentration impairment etc.
As humans we are active agents who can influence the impact of a stressor throughout our behaviours, thinking and emotional state.
Tips to manage stress:
- Breath! The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and relieve stress. Breathing exercises are easy to learn and you can do them whenever you need.
- Challenge your thinking. Researches have shown that people give different cognitive meaning to stressors. Meaning that stress is a very personal/subjective experience. What stresses me may not stress you! Therefore, our cognitive interpretation plays a key role on the eventual magnitude on our stress response. So the way we interpret and respond to stress is crucial.
- Notice how you may respond to thoughts such as “I haven’t got enough time”; “I can’t do this”; “This is too hard”; “I will never finish in time”. Thought are just thoughts. Perceive them just like cars in a busy road, they are just passing by, no need to react to them, observe them and just let them go. You are the thinker and not the thought!
- Music is such a great healer. Have a relaxing playlist on your phone and take a few minutes during the day to listen to it when you need to relax.
- Be present. We often miss the ‘here and now’ as our thoughts can be in the past or in the future. Try to take day by day and don’t plan too far ahead.
- Develop techniques that may help you to transit from a busy day to me time or family time. Some people like to have a shower or get change when you get home.
- Limit your responsibilities and communicate assertively – it is ok to ‘say no!’
- Write down your stressful thoughts and feelings. Researchers have shown that Written Emotional Disclose is a valuable and cost effective therapeutic approach as it can help you to process what has happened and will give your mind a break.
- Go back to the basic – healthy balanced diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, drink plenty of water and go to bed early.
If you are feeling stressed and would like to talk about it then either call to see your GP at the Holistic Medical Centre or call Grace or Katarina at Richmond Psychology located within the Holistic Medical Centre on the corner of Ponsonby and Crummer Rds.