What is Stress?
Stress can be defined as a feeling of not being in control, just reacting to events, and an uncomfortable underlying feeling that you are not coping well. Stress can be a personal thing – what is stressful for one person can be stimulating for another. Some stress in life is unavoidable but we can all learn ways of coping when it rears its head.
Recognising Stress in your Life
Believe it or not, some stress is good for you. It provides you with energy and motivation and improves your performance so that you are more likely to achieve your goals. However prolonged stress can have a negative effect on your health. It drains you of energy and leads to stress-related symptoms such as headaches particularly over forehead and temples; neck, shoulder and lower back pain; indigestion and digestive complaints; raised blood pressure which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke; anxiety and poor sleep; and weakened immunity and skin problems. When you are under pressure the adrenal glands release extra adrenalin and cortisol which flood throughout your body, in effect placing it in a state of ‘high alert’.
Luckily a variety of different forms of stress relief are available, including relaxation techniques, self-help techniques and complementary therapies.
- Deep Breathing: When stressed, we tend to breathe in short gasps which makes the problem worse. Next time you are stressed, try to consciously bring your breathing back under control. First breathe out every bit of air that you can. Then slowly breathe in through your nose, as low into your stomach and abdomen as possible, feeling your tummy expand. Breathe out through your mouth as slowly as you can.
- 10 Minute Soother: One simple and effective way to help you cope with stress is to make it a practice to give yourself a 10 minute break at least twice a day. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and clear your mind. Now try visualising a tranquil scene such as a clear blue sky or a beautiful forest and feel yourself relax.
- Positive Relaxation: A number of specialised methods of relaxation are available such as yoga, meditation or try a self-hypnosis tape.
- Chart Your Day: It may be worth looking at how long you’re spending on different tasks to see if you can manage your time more effectively. Write a to-do list for the day and then compare this with what you actually achieve along with the time it took to do each task. Allow yourself more time for tasks which take the longest time.
- Balance your Life: If you work with people, make sure your evenings and weekends include some quiet time alone for meditation or reading. If you work alone or are out of work, ensure that your leisure time includes contact with other people. Make sure you get plenty of fresh air at weekends.
- Learn to Say No: Stressed people often have difficulty saying no. Practice saying ‘No, sorry, I can’t work late tonight’. Put your own needs first more often and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. If you are busy when someone phones, call them back later.
- Exercise: A great stress-buster which releases natural chemicals called endorphins that help combat the effects of stress. Try to exercise for half an hour three times a week. Suggestions include going to the gym, taking a brisk walk every day, cycling, swimming or taking up a dance class.
- Set Realistic Goals: Stressed people often feel trapped in jobs they hate, bad relationships etc. Set achievable, smaller goals and start to change your life little by little one step at a time.
- Complementary Therapies: Take a course of complementary therapy such as Reiki to help restore balance and harmony and boost inner strength or Reflexology to address the physical symptoms of stress.
- Vitamin/Mineral Supplements: Try rhodiola or a vitamin B complex to boost the nervous system. (Professional advice is available from your local health store.)
Benefits of Stress Relief
Once you incorporate these suggestions into your life, the body can start to revert back to its normal, healthy state. Your heart rate will slow down, blood pressure will normalise, muscular tension will ease and you will feel fewer nagging aches and pains, your sleep will improve, you will breathe more easily, your concentration will improve, you will be more patient with people around you and you will be less susceptible to illnesses such as colds and flu.
- Complementary therapy treatments mentioned in this article (Reiki and Reflexology) are available with Helen Shortland priced £30 and £28 respectively.
- Vitamin/mineral supplements are available from Little London Herbal Stores, 9 Kings Walk, Nottingham, NG1 2AE or visit website www.all-ages-vitamins.co.uk
Helen Shortland is a Reiki Master Teacher, Meditation Teacher and Holistic Therapist based at Little London Herbal Stores on Kings Walk in Nottingham city centre. Please ring her on 07748 591690 to book a treatment or visit her website http://helenshortland.com for further information.