We all experience stress –some of us more than others. Sometimes stress builds in our work, personal or home life. The key to managing stress is finding out what makes you tip from coping to feeling overwhelmed. A certain amount of stress in our lives leads to increased performance and productivity, but too much can actually impede our performance and leave us feeling overwhelmed or as if we are running on empty. Often it is a combination of things that tip us over.
What impact can stress have on us physically and mentally?
Learn to recognise your own stress signals. Physical signs that your body is stressed include headaches, a sore throat, mouth ulcers or cold sores, back pain or even an upset stomach. The key is to take notice of these warning signs before you tip over. Think about how hard you push yourself before you listen to your body. Recognising your bodies individual stress signals is the key to managing your own stress.
The signs of mental stress can be more subtle. It could be that you are sleeping poorly, finding it hard to concentrate, are short tempered or even feeling a constant low level of anxiety. Some people just feel really, really drained and tired. The difficulty arises when this feeling becomes the norm.
So what are the best ways we can reduce and manage bad stress?
We need to get stress OUT of our body.
Here are a few tips to help manage stress:
1. Listening to your stress signals is the first step to managing it. When you feel like you are about to tip over, take steps to reduce the load.
2. Check your breathing as your breath is like a barometer. If you are breathing short and shallow, chances are you are overstressed. You can instantly break the stress by taking a long, slow deep breath. This settles your mind and body, relaxes your system, decreases your blood pressure and slows your heart rate and reduces stress hormones.
Try breathing in for 2 counts and breathing out for 6 counts. Just a few SLOW breaths can really change to way you feel. It can help break the stress feeling and re – centre your thoughts and concentration.
3. Get a bit of “huff and puff” into your day. Getting stress out of your body makes a huge difference to how you feel at the end of the day AND how well you sleep at night. Huff and puff is when our heart rate is elevated so that we can talk but you can’t sing while exercising.
Try climbing a flight of stairs, walking quickly up a steep hill or adding a short sprint in-between telegraph poles on your daily walk. 3- 5 minutes of huff and puff a day is actually all you need!
Short burst of huff and puff exercise are fantastic for you brain, mood and energy. Try it at lunch time for improved concentration in the afternoons.
A bit of Huff and Puff at the end of the day is also a great way of letting go of stress after a busy or challenging day, and will lead to a better night’s sleep!
And that better night’s sleep will help with our coping mechanisms for any stressful situations that may occur the next day.