First of all we need to understand why it is we are getting stressed out. As you know we stress about work, finances, and relationships. These are psychological stressors. There are also physical stressors such as nutrition, exercise or lack of exercise and sleep. Our bodies do not distinguish the difference between psychological stress and physical stress. Our bodies simply add together all forms of stress – in what I like to call our stress bucket. Stress is made out to be the devil – that is not entirely true. Like most things life, too much stress is a bad thing – we actually need a certain amount of stress to be healthy.
Without turning this into a chemistry lesson, our bodies release different hormones to prepare us for the day’s events. In the morning our bodies release stress hormones, these are to get as up and about. Later in the day these stress hormones are suppose to taper off. While our bodies start to wind down, our repair hormones take over – their job is to rebuild bones, muscle tissue etc, as well taking care of our psychogenic repair. Too many people’s stress buckets are always full and or over flowing – causing sickness, lack of sleep, poor digestion, injuries, excess weight or body fat, weakened immune system or just feeling like crap all the time.
- The best way to start reducing your stress level or emptying out you bucket is to identify what is causing you the most stress in your life. It might be a number of things, write them down and work out a plan of attack to tackle them. Also remember seek help if you need it, don’t be frightened to ask for help or seek expertise. For money issues maybe see a financial advisor. Etc
- Look at your diet! Drop the CRAP (caffeinated, refined, alcohol / aspartame and processed) foods and reduce your sugar intake. All of the previously mentioned items are high GI and cause your body to release even more cortisol (stress hormone). Too much cortisol causes; fatigue, suppressed immune system, digestion problems, constipation and other catabolic (breakdown) hormone responses. Protein and good fats are the building blocks of the body and also your hormones. So it is vital that you consume adequate amounts of protein and good fats.
- Exercise – the right kind of exercise can help reduce you stress levels. The intensity of the exercise is inversely related to your stress level. For example if you are totally stressed out taking part in high intensity high impact aerobic class probably isn’t the right option. You are far better off going for a walk, doing some light resistance training, yoga or pilates class.
- Take some time to relax. Book in a massage – or have a spa treatment – go and get pampered. Alternatively you could buys some nice bath salts run yourself a nice warm bath, maybe read a good book or just soak up the serenity. You might just want to do something you enjoy like seeing a movie or a game of golf, it’s up to you.
- Lastly learn to meditate. Meditation improves your sense of awareness, energy, mental clarity, and athletic ability. Start with 5 to 10 minutes per day. Sitting, stand or simply lie perfectly still, close your eyes and purely focusing on your breathing and nothing else. You will feel your heart rate slow and a sense of calm come over your body.
Obviously there are more than five ways to reduce your stress level. But by integrating one or more of the five simple steps outlined, you will pretty soon find that there is a lot less stress in your old stress bucket. There will always be times or situations that will stress you out – but you will have plenty of room your stress bucket to tolerate whatever is thrown your way.