What is stress? Is it healthy? Deadly? Necessary? The truth is that many of us seem to think that stress is a reaction to something challenging or bad happening in our lives. Most of the time though, stress is due to everyday pressures that we need to keep up with. Our schedules are busier than ever: we have a lot of work commitments, we take care of the family; and sometimes of our elderly, too. As a result, we may have little time to take a break, unwind and relax.
That said, a small amount of stress can be beneficial. Within limits, stress can help you get moving, meet your deadlines on time or study for an exam. So when does it become problematic? Simple. – when it becomes too much, too overwhelming and all-consuming. This kind of stress can trigger our fight or flight response which can drain our energy and make it harder to function. Moreover, this may make you feel anxious and worried. When chronic, this kind of stress can also lead to health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure. So what can you do to cope with everyday stressors and keep chronic stress at bay?
- Take good care of your body
- Eat well and follow a healthy diet – reduce caffeine and sugars.
- Make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Exercise an average of 3 times a week – I know this has been said a million times. It is true though. Moving your body regularly has a lot of physical and mental health benefits. So get moving!
2. Take good care of your mind
- Make time in your day to relax and have fun – yes fun. EVERY DAY. Even if just for 15mins.
- Meditate, or try mindful breathing, preferably in nature.
- Learn to relieve stress in the moment by deep breathing or a sensory exercise.
- Take a break from watching the news or social media – we were never meant to shoulder the burden of the world.
3. Set boundaries
- Some people struggle with saying no. However, this is a very important self-care technique. Setting boundaries helps you to protect yourself.
- Avoid people who stress you out.
- Prioritise and delegate tasks and responsibilities.
4. Connect with your community
- This can refer to your family, friends or an actual community. A community provides us with that sense of belonging which helps us feel stronger and reminds us that we are never alone.
5. Balance work and play
- Plan your day and stick to it. This can help you find time to take necessary breaks even when going through a challenging period.
If you find yourself chronically stressed, it may be a good idea to identify what is causing so much stress in your life and try to change it. If this is not possible, find ways to improve the stressful situation. If you are not sure what causes you stress, you can start a stress journal to figure out when you feel at your lowest and why. When it gets too much, keep in mind that it is ok to ask for help. Help is always there if you look for it.