Learn how to turn off your stress A major problem with stress is that it can feel like your stress is in control of you rather than the other way around. This is because your stress response or ‘fight or flight’ system operates automatically and at an unconscious level. The problem is that we can be triggered into the response inappropriately such as by being stuck in traffic when you are trying to make it to an important meeting or by an unexpected bill. Even though there is no need to run or fight for your life your stress has been triggered. Luckily there are many ways to turn off the stress response quickly and easily. Learning a simple breathing technique can switch your body from the ‘fight or flight’ stress response to the ‘rest and digest’ relaxed phase in minutes.
Prioritize sleep Remember stress can be good for you and if you get adequate rest and recovery after a stressful event this will make you more resilient to a similar stress in the future. By far the best way to recover from stress is sleep! A good night of deep, restful sleep will help you recover from stress and become more resilient. See the Practical Wellness section on Sleep for more top tips to maximise your sleep.
Make friends with stress Fighting stress can be a bit like being scared of the bogeyman when you were a child. You can’t see, touch or feel it but the more attention you give it the more powerful it becomes. Learning more about the positive intention of stress and what it is trying to do for you will help you realise that it can be your friend. A simple change in your attitude can mean your body will respond differently to stress! Research shared on the TED stage by Kelly McGonigal shows that people who see stress as something that is helping them grow and overcome adversity do not experience the same harmful effects as those who believe it is harmful.
Exercise to burn off excess stress When we are under stress our body is primed for fight or flight at a physiological level and this is largely governed by the stress hormones adrenal, noradrenalin and cortisol. If you have a stressful day but you haven’t been running or fighting for your life then the chances are there has been a build up in these stress hormones and this can make it harder for you to relax, switch off, stay present or even sleep as well as making you more irritable, worried, anxious or ‘wired but tired’. A great way to burn off the accumulated stress is to exercise. Go for a run, hit the gym or the swimming pool and use that excess stress to add intensity to your exercise. If you aren’t into structures exercise see the Practical Wellness section on Movement for top tips to build more movement into your day.
Connection and support A fact that is not well known is that stress drives you at a physiological level to seek out support from others. Isolation is actually the biggest killer on the planet and the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has a lot of truth in it. When we feel safe and supported by others a hormone called oxytocin actually helps your body, especially the heart, recover from stress. Find someone like a family member, a close friend or colleague or a professional like a coach or counsellor who will be able to listen and support you through a stressful time. Perhaps there is a support group in your area where you can meet others who are going through similar challenges to you.