Modern living is stressful and, annoyingly, it seems to be getting more stressful by the day! We are inundated with the chaos of busy lives as well as non-stop work and family commitments. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and it’s no wonder the stress levels are rising.
Stress is one of those issues that is incredibly tricky to deal with. It often creeps up slowly, making its way into daily life. Then, before you know it, stress levels are out of control and you are facing a major physical or mental illness.
Not everyone suffers in the same way and stress takes its toll on different people in different ways. For some stress is not a bad thing. In fact, there is such a thing as good stress. Harnessed in the right way, stress delivers that boost of energy when we need to stay focused to finish an important job or when competing in high-level sports.
Back in the days when we were getting around in animal skins and living in caves, stress was a finely tuned response we relied upon for our survival.
However this is not the case for everyone. Back in the days when we were getting around in animal skins and living in caves, stress was a finely tuned response we relied upon for our survival. If an angry woolly mammoth was chasing us our fear would trigger the stress response which would send a dose of adrenalin into our system and power us up to quickly run away.
You have probably heard of this as the flight or fight response. These days our lives are relatively free from wild animal chases. However we still have that same ability to trigger the stress response.
Our body can’t differentiate between a wild beast hot on our heels and an overflowing inbox. So we end up in the flight or fight response more than we need to be.
This is when stress really starts to take a toll on physical and mental health. Once in this state it is tough to bring the body and mind back to a calm state. Before you know it issues like chronic pain, poor immunity, poor digestion, heart issues, anxiety and even hormone imbalance appear.
Learning to find the right tools and techniques to deal with stress in your life is one of the best things you can do for overall health and happiness.
Here are five ways you can enhance your sense of calm and take control of an ever-changing world.
1. Stay healthy
If you’re not in top shape you will find it harder to deal with stress. So now is the time to take a look at those bad habits and decide if they are helping or hindering your path to calm.
Common culprits are alcohol and coffee consumption, as well as a lack of sleep and skipping meals. It’s not easy to break habits of a lifetime, but making a few small changes towards a healthier lifestyle can have a big impact.
2. Stretch it out
Who cares if you look a bit strange as you do yoga in the office? You have stress to manage! Take time out of your busy day and move. When we are in stress mode our muscles are primed for action. Over prolonged periods we end up with painfully tight muscles.
We all know the feeling of tight shoulders or a stiff neck after a hectic day at work. Avoid long-term issues and set aside time each day for stretching. Focus on gentle neck stretches as well as exercises to open the chest and shoulders. The hip flexors are another commonly tight area, so floor exercises are good here. Stretch it out and find some relief from stress.
3. Get the app
Too much time on the device is not helpful when managing stress. However there are some wonderful apps out there that will do more good than harm.
Have a look at the app store on your phone and you will find plenty of free guided mindfulness and meditation apps available for download. Then you can listen to a meditation or guided breathing exercise at any time. Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm are a few good choices.
Yes it sounds simple enough. But we don’t always breathe in a way that benefits us. Next time you are stressed, notice how your breathing changes. You probably start shallow breathing and your shoulders slowly creep closer to your ears!
Next time you are stressed,
notice how your breathing changes.
Learn to breathe slowly through your nose and from your belly. This allows a healthy flow of oxygen into your brain and tells your body that everything is okay – there are no woolly mammoths here! Cultivating a mindful breathing practice is one of the most potent ways you can combat stress. And it’s free and requires no special equipment
5. Peace of mind
Get rid of all those things that keep you up at night. Worrying about the ‘what-ifs’, or whether important documents like wills and insurance policies are correct, is a fast track to a bad night’s sleep.
One of the big triggers for stress is uncertainty and if you’ve neglected some things (like getting the right insurance) it will cause stress not only for you but also for your loved ones. When we know we’re organised, prepared, and our affairs are in order, a huge weight is lifted. A quick chat with our insurance advisors can help you set up everything. You can sleep well with peace of mind.
There are no guarantees in life – so much is out of our control. However we can still plan ahead and work today to stay healthy, stay happy and stay calm.