Stress Awareness Month: Ollie’s Blog
Stress. It’s a word that is often bandied around as part of our vocabulary to describe how we feel. And somehow we have come to accept it is a part of our everyday life to be stressed. How many times have you asked someone “how are you feeling” and the answer be “stressed!” Does this mean we should accept stress is a part of our daily life? Definitely not.
The stress response system is a biological process that has been adapted over millions of years through our evolution as humans. When you experience stress, a series of events occur in your body – for example a caveman coming face to face with a tiger would result in an increase in heart rate, breathing and the release of sugars in the blood to enable a run to safety.
In modern day terms the stress of a deadline at work can cause the same physical events to occur in the body which might motivate us to work harder or focus on the task at hand. We could class this as good stress as it often leads to a positive outcome. However, if we are constantly stressed this is bad for us and can lead to problems.
If we are under stress over a long period of time there can be huge consequences to our health. Take our deadline example again. What if you weren’t able to focus or the deadline was far in advance. This would increase the amount of time our bodies would be experiencing all of these reactions. Our increased blood pressure, which was originally designed to help us run from the tiger, is now putting huge stress on our heart and brain which could lead to heart attacks or strokes. The increase in blood sugar over a long period of time could result in Type 2 Diabetes. Our immune system may also begin to shut down. Why would I need to fight a flu if I am about to be eaten by a tiger?
Prolonged stress can be a hugely damaging to our health. But how can we solve it? Well, thankfully, this is not the first time someone has written about stress or discussed it. There are loads of podcasts, books and apps out there which can help to explain stress and how to handle it.
The Stress Solution:
Eat for stress
If you don’t have time to look through any of these suggestions, how about you attempt a few of the options below.
Do something for yourself that makes YOU happy. Whether it’s going to watch the match at your mates, reading a book or walking the dog, it can be anything that you look forward to that will then help you deal with life’s stresses a bit easier. If you can’t make time for an hour then make time for 10 minutes, a little is better than nothing.
Try to relax at the end of the day, it can help you to switch off and de stress. Have a hot shower, read a book, do some light exercise and try to avoid too much technology. This can help you to unwind, have a better night’s sleep and ultimately reduce your stress.
Diet and exercise.
This is often rammed down our throats as something we should work on. And we should, it’s important, not only to our physical health but our mental health too. Again, there is huge amounts of books, podcasts and videos out there to help with this. In my experience the key to achieving success in having a great diet and exercise regime is… enjoyment! If you enjoy cooking and eating healthy food, you are more likely to do it. If you enjoy football over sitting on an exercise bike in a gym, do the football – we have loads of opportunities for you to get involved with here. (link)
Modern day meditation or “Mindfulness” is becoming increasingly popular and there’s a reason why. There is plenty of evidence which demonstrates how mindfulness can have huge impacts on stress and ultimately our overall health. Give the app “Headspace” a go. You have nothing to lose so try it out today!
There is a tool called the stress container which encourages you to write your stress down.
This is a tool from Mental Health First Aid England which we use regularly at Newcastle United Foundation. It can help you understand the stresses in your life and how you might be able to challenge them. Writing down all your stress from small things like burning your toast to big things like financial problems can help you to start working on how to deal with them.
After all, as the stoic philosophy goes, we can only control our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours. Everything outside of this is beyond our control and arguably something we should not worry about. Maybe we can stop worrying about them quite so much.
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