When it comes to well being most of us are pretty aware of the effects of diet and exercise on living a healthy life. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and unprocessed foods plus moving your body a few times a week is a great foundation. However, all of your hard work can be undone if you allow stress to take over.
Some stress can actually be a good thing – when it comes to exercise ‘stressing’ your muscles with weight training is what helps them to grow and the stress of having to deal with an emergency situation makes your body react faster. It is not occasional or complementary stress that causes the problems – it is chronic, constant low level stress that is the one you need to take care to avoid, or deal with.
When your body is in a state of chronic stress – perhaps due to an un-fulfilling job, demanding boss, difficult living situation, relationship break up or even just putting yourself under undue pressure and over committing to things, then it will not function at its best. You will also be pretty unhappy! Chronic stress can lower your immune system, cause you to gain weight (especially around the middle), give you digestive distress, headaches and prevent full absorption of nutrients, just when you need them the most, as well as a host of other issues.
But reducing stress is easier said than done. Of course removing the source of stress would be ideal, but that is not always an option, so taking steps to reduce the impact of the stress is the best way to tackle it.
Identifying the source of chronic stressors and doing all you can to reduce them is the first step – for example if you are guilty of over committing yourself, practice saying the NO word from time to time. If lack of time is an issue try some organisational techniques to help manage it better.
When you are in a situation where you can not realistically change the source of the stress – for example if you are being made redundant and having to look for a new job, then its more about steps you can take to give your body the space and time to relax and have a break from the stress.
Of course relaxing activities like meditation, Yoga and Tai Chi can be a big help just by slowing you down and getting you to breath properly. If that kind of thing doesn’t float your boat, even just getting lost in a good book will benefit you. Disconnecting from technology once in a while will also do you the world of good!
Conversely – if you feel ‘angry stressed’ then try out a martial arts or boxing inspired workout to punch that stress out!
Carving out some time to yourself to do something you love and that will take your mind off it is also a good practice to get into. For me right now that is as simple as taking a hot bath with a glass of wine while listening to some new music every Saturday night.
Changing your perspective on situations may sound difficult, but to get a little Buddhist on you, you have the power to control how you feel about things. Ultimately, you are the one allowing yourself to become stressed out. Sometimes changing your perspective on the source of the stress is enough to alleviate it.
Supporting yourself with a healthy diet is even more important when you are feeling stressed so keep it up, even when you feel like reaching for the chocolate – which FYI is totally allowed when you are stressed, just stick to antioxidant rich dark chocolate. You may also consider taking a B-Complex supplement as B vitamins are used up in keeping the bodies nervous system in balance.
How do you handle stress in your life?
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