Stress Busters You Can Try This Stress Awareness Month

Stress is now recognised as one of the great public health challenges of our time, but the impact of stress on our overall health and wellbeing is often overlooked.

Did you know, that in addition to contributing to mental health problems like anxiety and depression, stress is also linked to a number of physical health problems – including heart problems, sleep troubles, and problems with the immune and digestive systems?

Woman practising mindfulness

Signs of Stress

Long term stress is linked to many physical symptoms.  These physical symptoms of stress can include:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurrent infections
  • Headaches
  • Light headedness (especially on standing)
  • Muscle tension, teeth grinding or jaw clenching
  • Stomach or digestive problems

This wide-ranging impact is why so many health experts will suggest looking for ways to stress less.

Stress Busters: Empty Your Stress Bucket

Ever wondered why sometimes we can cope with stress and anxiety, and other times we cannot? The stress bucket analogy is a great way to understand this.

Imagine a bucket which fills up with all the stresses of the day. It can be emptied – like a tap – by a good night’s sleep, or by engaging with things which make us feel happy and relaxed.  However, when we are dealing with a high volume of stress or are not able to empty the bucket effectively, it can start to fill or overflow, leading to us feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

We all have a stress bucket, but some people are better at emptying it, or simply have less going into it, than others.

Another problem is that when we focus on the problems we are having, and think about all the things we have in our bucket – which is a perfectly natural thing to do when we have a lot going on – we are actually adding more things to our bucket, and making it more likely to overflow.

The key to helping stress and anxiety, is to engage with tools which help to empty the bucket. This can include relaxation techniques, spending time with friends, engaging with things which make us happy, talking to someone we trust, and making positive changes where we can.

Some great stress busters to help empty your stress bucket include:

  1. TRY MINDFULNESS FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT

The idea of mindfulness practice is to allow yourself some time each day where you stop.  You breathe.  You relax.  You pay attention. You check in with yourself and your surroundings.

Mindfulness is all about taking time out of your daily life. Time when you stop running on auto pilot and try to notice what is going on around you, in your head and in your life.  There are many apps and guides available to support the practice of mindfulness, and many ways to approach it. Look for an approach that works for you.

2. JUST BREATHE FOR STRESS RELIEF

The following is a simple breathing and relaxation routine.  If you do nothing else, just doing this each day, to relax yourself properly, will help you feel more relaxed and in control.

  1. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down – get comfortable.
  2. Place your hands on your abdomen and bring your attention to your breathing.
  3. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4
  4. Breathe out though your mouth, slowly and carefully, for a count of 8.
  5. Repeat 4 or 5 times.

If you lose concentration at any time during this, or your mind wanders off, don’t worry, don’t get stressed, and do not think ‘this isn’t working’ just bring your attention back to your breath.

This exercise is not about breathing deeply, it is about breathing in a controlled and calm way.  It can be done very quietly, and subtly, and once you have gotten good at it – in any place.  This type of breathing is very calming and soothing for the brain and can help to control anxiety.

3. CREATE A STRESS BUDGET TO HELP YOU STRESS LESS

We often budget our money – knowing that our finances are limited, we look at what we can afford and (hopefully) ignore what we cannot.  This is because we KNOW that our money is limited.

Our ability to deal with stress is limited in a similar way – so, we should really be having a look at those things we shouldn’t be wasting our ‘stress budget’ on.

Creating a stress budget will allow you to step back and look at what is really important.  Don’t waste a limited stress budget on things you cannot change, things which are not important, and things you do not need.

Recognizing that it is within our power to exclude things from our stress budget – to literally refuse to allow certain things to upset us or create stress, learning to say no to things we do not want to do – makes a huge amount of difference to how well we deal with all the other issues in life.

4. JUST STOP OCCASIONALLY, TO HELP REDUCE THE SIGNS OF STRESS

By this we mean take some time for yourself.  Many of us would claim that we do not have the time to do this.  We are too busy.  This may be true, but it is only true BECAUSE of our failure to stop and find time for ourselves.  Failing to find the time to stop – even for 10 minutes of each day – CAUSES us to feel tired, stressed, and overwhelmed.  This in turn tends to make us irritable, anxious or down.  It also makes us less productive. 

Imagine your brain is like a computer – every activity, event and thought that you encounter through the day is a like opening another program on your computer.  Each time you open a new program the whole computer runs slower – until it feels like it is almost at a standstill.  The best way to get the computer running efficiently again?  Close down some of the programs that are running.  The best way to achieve this – stop occasionally!

5. HELP FROM HERBALS FOR ANXIETY AND SLEEP SUPPORT

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for stress management.  Sleeping well helps you to empty your stress bucket properly.  If you struggle to sleep well during periods of stress, then consider a valerian supplement.  Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy used to help provide temporary relief from sleep disturbances due to mild anxiety, based on traditional use only.

Another herbal remedy which could offer a little extra support is St. Johns Wort. A well-known traditional herbal remedy used to help offer relief from the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only.

Supportive Supplements

Supplements, vitamins, and minerals do not offer relief from the symptoms of stress, but they do offer extra support for your body during times of stress.  Different supplements support the body in different ways, so make sure you choose the best one for your circumstances:

B VITAMINS – NERVOUS SYSTEM & ENERGY SUPPORT

  • Vitamins B12, B6 and Niacin all support the normal function of your nervous system
  • Vitamins B12 and B5 help to reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Vitamin B5 also supports healthy mental performance

If you feel like you might need a little extra support in these areas, you could try topping up on these vital B vitamins, by choosing a high strength B vitamin complex to take each day.

MAGNESIUM – PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT

Magnesium is becoming increasingly popular, and this is not surprising, it supports the body in many different ways, including:

  • Supporting healthy psychological function
  • Supporting healthy energy production
  • Helping to support healthy muscle function

Magnesium can be taken on its own or found in targeted supplements combined with key B vitamins to provide broad spectrum support to the nervous system.

IMMUNE SUPPORT

One of the effects of stress on the body is to reduce the health of the immune system.  Therefore, looking for supplements which support the immune system, such as vitamins A, C & D, can be helpful to support immune health in times of stress.  Check out our blog on healthy immune function for more information.

DIGESTIVE SUPPORT

Another of the physical effects of stress is to reduce the amount of energy available to the digestive system.  If you feel this may be the case for you, then it could be worth looking for natural ways to support a healthy digestion.  Our blog on IBS contains lots of information on ways to support digestive health.

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