One of my favourite mantras to live by is; “stress never made anything easier”, but if we whack on our lab coats and look all scientifically at this then technically I am actually wrong! Moderate stress has been shown to improve cognitive function and brain performance, it has also been shown to improve immunity, and improve emotional resilience to future emotional problems.
With that said, this moderate stress probably isn’t what we all struggle with, what we struggle with is the chronic stress which annoyingly hums away in the back of our minds running off endless lists of worries, concerns, problems and issues. This stress isn’t good, this stress is actually downright terrible for your health. Okay so here’s a little list of some (not all because believe me the list is very long, but some of the problems stress can cause and lead to):
· Increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
· Higher incidences of obesity
· Diabetes (this one is a double whammy – stress encourages bad eating habits and stress also causes an increase in glucose level – both things not ideal on the diabetes front!)
· Headaches including migraines
· Anxiety and panic attacks
· Accelerated ageing process
· Increased risk and acceleration of Alzheimer’s Disease
· Premature death (That’s right stress can literally make you die sooner!)
Let’s pause for a breather on the bombshell that is premature death……… Okay back to it, stress can also cause:
· Eating disorders
· Weakened immune system (“but I thought you said stress boosts immunity??” – that’s right moderate stress does, but chronic stress does the exact opposite and causes havoc with your immune system.)
· Circulatory problems and can lead to stroke
· Can slow down the healing process of infections
· Cancer (there are more and more studies drawing this link between stress and various types of cancer)
Okay – so are you sufficiently scared by all these health risks? Well don’t be stressing about being stressed! That is like complaining about being thirsty while tipping a glass of water on the floor! It’s not going to help anyone! So what can we do about all this? Well first I’d like to say this I’ve done a course in Stress management, I’ve also read countless books and listened to plenty of audiobooks, podcasts, Ted talks and interviews with experts and after all that I have concluded; stress is unavoidable! There are situations in life that will be stressful and that is unavoidable, issues with your own health or the health of a family member will always cause stress, I feel the book “The Subtle art of not giving a F*ck – by Mark Manson” puts this best he states that it isn’t about not giving a F*ck about anything it is about finding better stuff to give a F*ck about. This is very true and basically means pick your battles, you can’t remove stress from the world and the world is always a stressful place, now probably more than ever, but sometimes you’ve got to stop and acknowledge there is nothing you can do, if there is nothing you can do to change a situation is there any point in worrying about it? Focus on what you can control and then just try to find some mental peace in knowing you have done everything you can!
Some other helpful points can be:
· Become more organised
· Become better at managing money and saving for a rainy day
· Start Journaling – journaling can help to monitor and express emotions
· Start Meditating – meditation can help to give your brain a break and a chance to take a breather
· Start Exercising – exercise helps not only to benefit your health but also releases endorphins and
· Get your diet in check – diet again helps your all round health but also helps improve the way you feel.
Living a life free of stress is impossible, but trying to keep your stress levels within healthy parameters is a must. Stress should be something which starts and stops not something which is a permanent resident inside our brains. Something which I like to remind myself of is that stress was originally designed from an evolutionary stand point to help us survive!
The point of stress was to keep us alive and help us avoid and escape danger, for example; ancient cavemen humans would see a saber-toothed tiger approaching, stress would occur in the body, releasing chemicals such as adrenaline, speeding up the heart rate and this would give the individual the best chance to either fight the saber-toothed tiger or to flee and get away. Then once the caveman was safely away from the Saber-toothed tiger the stress would subside and their body would return to ‘normal’. Fortunately, there aren’t saber-toothed tigers roaming the streets in 2021, unfortunately instead our saber-toothed tigers are metaphorical in the form of worries such as bills, deadlines, and social pressures! Worse still, since these aren’t physical predators they are far harder to get away from, so instead of stress working how it is meant to which is a short intense burst of chemicals to give us the best chance of survival stress becomes a very unwelcome permanent resident inside our heads, slowly eating away at us from the inside out.
So what are the three best courses of action to be less stressed:
1. Separate what you can and can’t control and accept that what you can’t control, you can’t control! Worrying and stressing won’t change this fact!
2. Take some time for yourself, no one can fire on all cylinders 24/7 sometimes you just need to take a step back and let your body and mind breathe!
3. You are never alone, remember if you are stressing about something odds are several million people globally have either had or are having that exact same stress, so don’t attack or reprimand yourself for stressing just accept it for what it is then refer back to step 1 to try to tackle the stress – also if the stress feels too much talk to someone, family, friends, trained professional or complete stranger as I said before there is virtually no situation where you will be the only person to have ever had that worry so believe me more people will understand than you think!
So remember stress extends far beyond them butterflies in your stomach and actually can have some very serious health implications so make sure to take it seriously and not ignore it. As always if anyone has any questions feel free to drop me a message.
Next week's topic: Pillar 3 - Nutrition