Stress is a funny thing. For many of us, it’s a daily occurrence. We all know the signs – a weight on our shoulders, a tightness in our chests, an uneasy feeling in our stomachs…
But how does it really affect us and what can we do about it?
• Busy schedules
• Big life changes
• Anxiety disorders
• Chronic illness
• Muscular tension – particularly jaw, neck and shoulders
• Breathing difficulties – shallow breathing, panic attacks
• Excessive perspiration
• Digestive troubles – bloating, irregular or disturbed bowel movements, heartburn, knotted stomach, cramps, IBS
• Skin breakouts
• Disturbed sleep
• Persistent insomnia
• Adrenal exhaustion – after constant stimulation, your ‘fight or flight’ response becomes a knee-jerk reaction (even to low-stress events)
• Reduced energy levels – ‘wired but tired’ feeling (see above)
• Chronic illnesses – often involving the nervous or digestive system
• Poor absorption of nutrients, leading to fatigue
• Weight loss or gain
• Mood disorders
• Live in the NOW. Most stress can be relieved if you stop judging an event through the eyes of the past, in fear of the future. Approach the event in isolation, without sub-text, and focus on the moment with your whole mind and body.
• Let yourself experience the full range of emotions, good and bad. Repressing a feeling buries it deep into your mind and body, and negative emotions have a tendency to rear their ugly heads further down the track. If you feel sad or angry, let the feeling have its place, sit with it for a while. It will pass a lot quicker.
• Don’t let your thoughts dictate your happiness. We all do it – wage analytical warfare on our decisions, reasoning through every possible outcome or option until we don’t know if we’re Arthur or Martha. Next time, go with your gut. You can’t always make the ‘perfect’ decision, just make a decision, and roll with it! Your heart and gut have just as much validity as your thoughts. Give them a chance.
• When you feel your body tensing up, take notice. Pause for a second. Listen. Take a few deep breaths, drink some water, shut your eyes for a minute, then restart.
• Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to perform miracles and you can’t do everything or be everything to everyone.
• Laugh. It’s important to maintain perspective, and see the fun in things.
• Sleep. This one’s a no-brainer. Sleep helps. It really is that simple. If you can’t get enough shut-eye, try a herbal calmative or, if you have exhausted all natural remedies, speak to your doctor. Nothing you do will heal your mind and body the way sleep will.