We are just back at work after our Easter Break, hopefully relaxed and refreshed. The big summer holidays are not too far ahead, when we can enjoy one or two weeks of time out. But what do we do to manage our stress for the other fifty or so weeks of the year? What effect does the ever present day to day stress have on us?
To answer this we must first establish what is meant by stress.
The body’s response to a potential danger is known as the fight or flight response. The sympathetic nervous system releases neurotransmitters in a surge (substances such as adrenaline) to ready us for what is to come. In primitive times, this response enabled us to either flee a danger ( flight) or stay and confront it ( fight). It is essentially designed to help us survive peril.
In modern times, daily stress is much less likely to involve such physical danger: the problem is any stress provokes exactly the same response.
What are modern day stressors?
We think of stress as an emotional or mental burden. Negative stresses such as adverse life events (relationship or financial difficulties, bereavement, work stress) are an easily identifiable source of stress but other physical stresses can affect our wellbeing. These can include
Food allergies or intolerance, chemical additives, missing meals, food restriction, fluctuations in blood sugar
Pollution, toxins from chemical products, parasites, bacteria, fungus, medications, over the counter supplements.
Anything that causes physical pain such as injury, muscle overuse, inflammation
In an acute (short term) state the fight or flight response is an important and necessary response to helping us focus, whether it is fleeing from a predator or pre exam nerves.
The problem arises when the source of the stress is constant, this is the nature of modern day stress, and it is more chronic. The surge of neurotransmitters cannot sustain an optimum response. With time, we become less able to provide an adequate reaction to the stress.
Do you ever find that the more stress you have, the less resilient you are at dealing with it? It becomes harder to bounce back. It is easy to see how problems spiral when stress builds and your capacity to deal with it cannot match up.
The presence of an ongoing stress response affects us physically. The nature of fight or flight is that is has evolved from our primeval need to survive. The body pushes everything into this response, with maintenance of other systems becoming of secondary importance. Signs of chronic response can be thyroid hormone dysfunction, weakening of the immune system, weight disturbances, impaired digestion and poor sleep.
What can we do to manage?
Be aware of your response to stress. So called adrenaline junkies may seem to thrive on stress, but ultimately a crash will come
Modern day stress can arise of our constant availability to others. Try to have a few minutes in the day when you can have a device detox and put Mobile devices to one side
Try to incorporate a bit of meditation into your day. This can seem like an involved task, but just ten minutes of quiet reflection can help reboot your day
Make time to help your body release stress, whether it is through massage, chiropractic adjustment or yoga
Look at dietary factors, reduce caffeine and alcohol, optimise fresh food and try to cut out the processed foods, sugar and salt
Learn to say no
Make time for a good sleep routine. Try to avoid caffeine or alcohol for the three to four hours before bed, try not to spend time on your mobile device in bed, consider meditation
Make time for regular exercise but remember to be safe so exercise is a safe long term strategy
Try to be in the company of positive people. Negativity can breed!
Try to always be mindful. If you have insight into when stress can be starting on it you can use strategies to kick it into touch