Stress is a side effect of life. We’re all busy juggling multiple roles in our lives, and just the right amount of stress actually helps us perform at optimum level.
An excess of stress, however, has the opposite effect on the body and mind. You may become irritable, sleepless, anxious and even depressed.
Over a prolonged period it may cause life-threatening heart problems, issues with immunity and effect your reproductive cycle. Your relationships may suffer and you may struggle to make sensible decisions. Basically, too much stress is the pits, m’kay, so decrease your stress levels whenever you can.
By keeping your stress level in check on a moment-to-moment basis, you may be able to prevent the build-up that leads to chronic stress overload, and possible brain explosion (note, not a scientifically proven medical side effect of stress, merely a suggested messy side-effect.
Research shows that moderate regular exercise can help to bust stress fast. Obviously, it’s great for overall health, but they discovered as little as 60 seconds of your heart rate up and blood pumping can help with stress-busting.
“Exercise has multiple and complexly-interlinked effects on mind and body, but mainly it is a release of energy that calms us down, and allows us to think more clearly and rationally,” Northern-beaches-based psychotherapist, Annie Gurton says.
Bust out a furious minute of star jumps, burpees, or push ups (awks in the office – find a secret spot) to help reset your brain.
As long as the exercise is a high intensity one-minute burst, it can help alter the chemicals in your brain sufficiently to give you a chill pill.
Watch your breath
When we’re stressing out our autonomous nervous system (try saying that when you’re drunk) kicks in. One of the first physical symptoms to kick in can be irregular or shallow breathing. Our heart rate rises, our fight or flight response activates, and our blood pressure can soar. Stress also triggers the hormone cortisol, which can impact weight, libido, and lower your immunity.
“There are two ways that controlled breathing helps with stress: The first is that by focusing on the breath we are using mindfulness, and that focusing on the present, we are not thinking about the past or the future, and the source of the stress fades away. Focus on the breath coming in and the breath as it goes out, and become aware of it passing over your upper lip (breathing should be done with the mouth closed), and you will find that you become calmer,” Annie says.
The second way Annie suggests is having a longer out-breath than in-breath, This calms our autonomous nervous system, which controls our basic bodily functions. Do this and you will notice that you can immediately think more clearly.
The art of focusing on senses catapults you into the now and draws focus away from the catastrophic scenarios of your mind that are unlikely to occur back to the now. Unless you are actually in a true fight-or-flight situation, often stress is in our head so getting into your body can help dissipate the stress.
Whatever you’re doing, gently take your focus to five things that you can hear. Are they close, or are they distant?
Once you have mentally listed five things, move on to things you can feel, followed by five things you can smell. See how present you become when you’re sniffing what’s in the room.
Tense and relax
Close your eyes and place both feet on the floor. Clench your fists as tight as you can, hold for a few beats, and release them back to relaxed. Lift your shoulders up as high and tense as possible, and then relax them.
Repeat the process with all of your major muscle groups in your body for one minute and allow the stress to slip away a little further every time you relax.
Stretch it out
Quite the opposite of furious push-ups on the office floor, stretching also helps reset the brain. Deep breaths, big stretches, getting out of your head, and into the tight areas of your body can have the same effect.
“When we are stressed we have a lot of pent-up feelings and frustrations, and the process of stretching our muscles, breathing more deeply and focusing our minds on something else will allow those pent-up feelings to release,” says Annie.
“Some stress is good for us, it’s the amount, frequency and intensity that matter. Some people really thrive on stress while others find the smallest amount is too much. We are all different, and our responses are different,” says Annie.
“There is a big school of thought that says that too much stress causes cancer or other serious illnesses, and there is no doubt that excesses of stress can have a detrimental effect. But a life that is too cruisy gets boring and dull, and that can be equally unhealthy.”
Keep a bit of an eye on your stress. Just try to recognise when it’s gone beyond performance enhancing and you’re getting freaky and wigging out. Pare back the workload if possible, or smash up these tips regularly to stay on top of it.