What is the point of stress? Why do we have it? The body experiences multiple kinds of stress, some of which it needs in order to respond appropriately to illness or to difficult or dangerous events. One example of this is the “fight-or-flight” state that helped some of our earliest ancestors defend themselves against serious threats. However, even though we don’t usually need to defend ourselves from the same predators our ancestors feared, many of us may still be responding to relatively minor frustrations or unexpected events with an unnecessary amount of stress.
Many of us seem to be living in this fight-or-flight mode every day, when in fact this is not what are bodies are designed to cope with. Why are we living in this state? More importantly, how do we avoid remaining in this state or reduce the stress in our everyday lives?
The following are five steps towards a happier, stress-free you!
Many people aren’t tuned in to their body and aren’t aware, until it’s too late, of the effect that stress is having on them. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of your mind, body and spirit. It is also important to know how to protect your mind and body from stress and the damage it can cause. Stress is a leading cause of poor health and it is up to you to reduce and, where possible, remove unnecessary stressors in your life.
Sleep is essential to maintaining good mental and physical health. It is nature’s healer; the opportunity for your brain and body to repair themselves from the stresses of the day and build and develop for the future. Yet many adults have insomnia multiple times a week. What is your day like if you have had a poor night’s sleep? Do you find yourself snappy and irritable, overreacting to the most minuscule challenge? What about days when you have slept well? Are you more likely to take things in your stride and stay calm under pressure?
Humans can only go a few minutes (at most) without oxygen. Oxygen is arguably the most important nutrient of the body – every cell needs it to function efficiently. However, the brain is the body’s largest user of oxygen. Breathing serves two purposes: it helps you take in oxygen to be transported to all parts of the body through the bloodstream, and it helps in the elimination of waste products. Oxygen helps to clear your mind, rejuvenate your skin and energize your whole body.
On the other hand, lack of oxygen can lead to mental sluggishness, lack of focus, depression and anxiety. If you are looking for relief from stress, practicing deep breathing is one of the best services that you could be providing for yourself. Even under normal circumstances, taking a full, deep breath by itself can be deeply relaxing.
When we are not hydrated properly enough, we can experience anything from mild headaches and fatigue to seizures, which can be a symptom of severe dehydration. The symptoms of stress and dehydration can be very similar – increased heart rate, nausea, fatigue and headaches.
Stop drinking all fizzy drinks, caffeinated drinks and juices for a week and replace them with water and see how you feel. If you are a caffeine addict (as I was), you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms if you go cold turkey (symptoms can include headaches), but the more water you drink, the easier it will be to manage. Hang in there!
Like oxygen and water, food is vital for our health and well-being It is our energy source and provides our bodies with the nutrients it needs to grow, fight disease and repair itself. Unhealthy food can affect our stress levels in multiple ways. It can be the cause of stress – physical stress caused to the body and its organs as it gamely tries to assimilate and metabolize what we eat and drink. Or, it can aggravate or increase stress from which we are already suffering.
Many of us feed ourselves platefuls of food loaded with toxins, chemicals, fats and sugars, which do not benefit our bodies. Nevertheless, we simply expect our bodies to cope. There is an important link between stress and nutrition. A balanced diet can boost our resistance against the effects that stress has on the body, and therefore it is important to make sure we get vital nutrients. Someone with a healthy and balanced diet is likely to be less stressed than someone with a poor diet as their bodies are often working more efficiently and they are more resilient to stress.
Article written by Neil Shah
Author and Director of the Stress Management Society