stress | noun
1. pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
2. a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
I wanted to write today about stress. Stress has become a normal emotion attached to our day to day life, whether it be work, relationships, socialising, self-care; you name it we are probably stressed about it. It became apparent to me recently that stress falls under 3 categories; past, present and future (no brainer but hear me out). Examples: Do you ever get stressed about a comment you made to at work that someone may have misinterpreted? and now your stressed it may jeopardise your work position. Or you’re writing an important essay and you feel stressed as you write. You start to type absolute waffle because you are not present in yourself, you are present in your bubble of stress. And maybe the worst type of stress, because it hasn’t even arrived yet. You predict stress for an interview, for the reaction to your latest social post or for the way you are perceived in social situations. I always just thought stress was a state of being, which is true, but the state of being is impacted by the past, present and future. Boy! No wonder we cannot escape stress. It’s attacking us 360.
In our modern society feeling stressed is nothing but normal. In may 2018, the mental health organisation shared an article outlining that “74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope”. What a scary statistic - and I am sure by may 2019 that figure will have risen. Stress is a huge factor contributing to the rise in mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Stress can also be linked to physical health problems such as insomnia, digestive problems, immune system issues and heart disease. Dealing and managing your stress levels is key to maintaining our health; but when did stress and it’s link to our wellbeing become such a hot topic, and what really is the best way to manage our stress? Granted I do not have all the answer, but I do have an interesting perspective on going from all or nothing to cutting myself some slack.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever personally felt victimised by stress? (ha, mean girls reference - I couldn’t resist) Often when we pick up that we are stressed we further increase our emotional state and add unnecessary pressure in responce to feeling like things have gotten to much for us. The more control you try to have to manipulate the situation only sets you further afield to the end goal. Whether you are aiming to meditate every morning, run 5k once a week, cook more at home meals, finish an essay or simply spend more time with your friends, ‘the stress is real’ as i often say to my partner.
As individuals we need to understand what is causing our stress, and learn what steps we can put in place to reduce it for ourselves and those around us. Magazines will spoon feed you about meditation solving all your issues, personal trainers will tell you exercising will reduce your stress and nutritionist will outline how bettering your diet will lift your mood, energy and mind. Granted, all of these are to an extend true, and will help you, but when the media approaches the solution to stress as a whole generation, our individual needs get lost in between the lines and the lies. When you are already stressed, the thought of investing money and time into a de-stressing wellbeing routine can be daunting. You wont find the answers to your stress in the recent self-care line realised on asos - you know the one’s, branded as a wellness product when we all know it is just a basic bar of soap and it won’t wash away all my sins.
As a society that thrives of being on-the-go and busy, it is clear that we approach our stress-management with the same attitude. Unfortunately, high millage and fast pace won’t get you results any quicker. Wanting a quick fix is normal, we want to do, achieve and feel gratified by the results, thus numbing or knocking the feeling of stress - but this is temporary. I will add her how important it is to not get sucked into social media’s standards of ‘wellbeing’ - half of what you see is a load of bullsh*t (excuse my french). Waking up at 5am to meditate, followed by a green smoothie and a HIIT gym class won’t benefit you in the long run, in fact it will probably leave you worse of than when you started.
At this point I will stop telling you all the things that the media throws at us and get down to the real secret. The most sustainable approach to lowering your stress levels is achieved by stopping and slowing down. Being present and processing your current state is far more beneficial than any super food smoothie; constantly striving for perfection falls far from the definition of ‘wellbeing’. I often refer to stopping as ‘pausing’ - because stopping refers to the end, where as pausing is the middle break ground where you re-charge. I like to think of it as pausing a tv program to make a cuppa and grab a biscuit, the break helps you enjoy the rest of the show more, and no love is long in the time you pause, in fact the pause only brings you satisfaction. You are not weak for needing time to pause. By hitting pause, we allow ourselves a gap to not get caught up in the busyness, and to be present when we return. Join me and write your TO DON’T list…
My to don’t list
Don’t meditate on the weekend, let yourself have a lie in and treat yourself to home cooked pancakes.
Don’t worry about replying to emails whilst you are at the gym
Don’t check your social media feed after posting a picture - be confident in your posts
Don’t beat yourself up over sleeping in past 6.30
Turn off your fit bit walking reminder and move when you can/want to
Don’t skip breakfast
I feel like a lot of this blog was written from Lydia and not my health coach persona, so I will add here a few scientific and holistic approaches to managing stress. The main approach I believe works with managing stress is taking it slow, creating a balance and being present. Even if your management includes turning your phone off at 10pm overnight for 1 month, and that is all you do that month to manage your stress, that is a perfect step in the right direction.
Eating can in fact help you lower your stress levels. If you eat an array of balanced meals with the aim to support your gut health you will have a positive impact on your mental state. To explain this in its simplest form - serotonin is well known as a brain neurotransmitter, however it is estimated that 90 percent of the body's serotonin is made in the digestive tract, which means by supporting your gut you are supporting the brains neurotransmitter. The state of the gut cannot be changed over night, and in some cases can take around 12 weeks to fully re-store therefore these results are down to the individual so it is important to note when making changes to your diet that our bodies are so complex no natural process is a quick fix.
Physical activity helps increase the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. When we exercise we increase our endorphins which leaves us feeling a lot less stressed than before we started exercise. Physical activity does not mean you have to be a member at the gym or part of a sports club, research shows that a simple walk outdoors can do wonders for your body and mind. Exposing your lungs to fresh air, and the scent of the flowers and plants, can help relieve stress and anxiety. Oxygen is thought to affect the levels of serotonin released in the body, in turn, contributing to feelings of happiness and relaxation