Your stress management toolkit
The importance of balancing stress
Management of Stress is key to being and feeling happy and healthy!
In our current lifestyles, we are prone to feeling continuous stress. We worry about everything, our work, our kids, relationships, finance, etc. Almost every single client I see has unhealthy stress level which is causing physical or emotional stress within the body. We have to find our way to deflect this or manage it better before it consumes us completely.
Stress has numerous causes… The two main types of stress are: External (temperature, environment, work, relationships etc) and Internal (illness, worrying etc). It is also one of the single biggest factors in health complaints today often leading to more serious issues – it affects every aspect of our wellbeing.
Common related health complaints include: Headaches, dizziness, Anxiety, Irritability, Anger Teeth Grinding, Jaw tension, Increased heart rate and other heart matters, Digestive orders, Weight Gain/Loss, Muscle Tension, decreased energy levels, mood swings, colds and infections, sleep problems
Even small stressors cause an increase in adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol which raise the heart rate, dilate blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Chronic and long term stress can be very damaging
Some stress can actually be quite good for us however too much can greatly challenge our immune system.
- We cant always change the things around us but we can make changes to support us better
- What can you change? How can you adapt?
- We all need our own individual stress management toolkit – what should yours look like?
KNOW YOUR SIGNS!!
This is the key to any stress management programme. If you can recognise your individual signs then you act quickly when they are there and even help to prevent things from getting out of hand. Symptoms vary for each individual but they will be there, they can include restless sleep, skin problems, flu like symptoms, physical pain, mood swings, digestive upset, headaches etc. Learn to really listen to your body, it has an incredible ability to communicate about what is going on and once you can understand that and recognise what happens when you are in stressful periods you can truly take back some control around then managing the stress. My main symptom for example is a scratchy sore throat so when that happens i take a moment to reflect whats going on for me. I can always relate it something that has happened around that time which has been stressful or that i simply am very run down because I have not made enough time to rest and take of myself. I say made enough time rather than had enough time because there is choice in everything we do. Time is abundant but it’s how we choose to fill it that makes us feel like we have restrictions. To recognise that we have a choice on what we do with our time is then have the power to manage it. So once I recognise my symptoms, i can very quickly turn things around again – by refocusing on a number of the aspects that ill now elaborate on below:
As a Kinesiologist, I always refer to a few quick techniques I use in clinic with my clients which Ill share with you too.
ESR points – these are 2 neurovascular points located on your forehead approximately 2cm above the middle of your eyebrow. We often naturally do this in upset or overwhelm (oh no and put our hands up on our head, see how clever your body is!? So holding this points and even thinking about the situation creates blood flow to that area and can be quite calming
Jaw Rub – the jaw area has a connection to most areas in the body so giving yourself a good jaw rub can actually be really therapeutic and help release stress. Stress also can physically show itself in the jaw if you think about stiff jaw, teeth grinding, headaches etc… start either side of the chin and rub it firmly all the way up to just under the ear lobe, it may feel sore to start with but keep going until the pain subsides. Your jaw will feel freer and you will be too!
Lymphatics – Your adrenal are located 1-2 inches either side of your belly button and down deep. As with all lymph it can occasionally get congested with in turn restricts good flow around the body so giving your adrenals a good rub can clear this. Again it may feel a bit sore to begin with but as the lymph congestion clears so will the pain. Lymphatic massage is a great way to keep your body clear of congestion for good balance. Not your ultimate relaxing massage at the time but you will feel amazing afterward!
Time Out – Quit the rush! When was the last time you made some time for yourself? Some of us find this a very difficult thing to do but you must prioritise YOU occasionally, its essential for your wellbeing. This could be included as your exercise routine, it may be as simple as reading a book or listening to some music and it may just mean a 10 minute walk outside for some fresh air and renewed head space before returning to your office or home – whatever it is – please make time for yourself regularly as part of your stress management routine.
Breathe – to breathe is to be alive and when stressed it’s important to remember to keep the air circulating in and out of our body. Sometimes the best thing we can do with our stress is to give ourselves a few moments of time out and a couple minutes of focussing on our breathe. It will at the very least enable you to re-engage with your stress on a different level
Exercise – a form of exercise can be such a great outlet for your stress. The key is we need to get stress out of our body. Whether that’s a more active type such as rebounding, running, sport etc or a more relaxing mindful type such as Yoga, meditation, walking etc the benefits will be the same. As an individual find the thing that you most enjoy for your body and go with it. It will change your energy flow and focus and release the tension from your body.
Healthy conversations – sometimes its good to talk rather than to hold things in. When i talk about healthy conversations I mean clear and constructive intent. It could be with yourself, a friend or someone directly involved or able to help with your stressful situation. For example in a work place can you speak with someone directly who can influence change within a stressful situation? In a relationship perhaps its taking the time to discuss and listen to one anothers issues? Or maybe you just need a friend to listen while you get something off your chest? Whomever you speak with, vent your woes or discuss your challenges and then move quickly on to finding solutions and refocusing your energies on more positive things. I used to work within a change management company who had a great topic on above and below the line. Basically its healthier to stay above the line for the majority of your time but occasionally we all have to go below and ‘empty our emotional boat (some people have an emotional rollercoaster, I have a boat). We need to vent sometimes sure, and sometimes we need to cry or get angry and even lay blame but staying below the line in that place is not going to help us so once that emotion is out we need to leave it below the line and move back on up to a more positive place of action like responsibility, trust and action which will enable us to move forward. So by all means have the conversations
B and C Vits – there are a number of good supplements that can greatly support your system through stress, however these two are my top two to share. A good B complex and vitamin C (500-1000mg) are easy enough to find, make sure its a good quality brand. B vitamins are depleted greatly when the body is under stress, this is because they are required in the bodies function in producing the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noadrenaline so they need to be replenished regularly. All the individual B’s have a key role to play and will be in a good B complex as well which provide essential support for cell metabolism in the body. Vitamin C is much more than an antioxidant, it can elevate mood, and reduce anxiety and distress. The way it can assist this is through regulating the amount of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is one of the primary stress hormones and whilst its helpful during flight or fight if there is too much of it in the body it then suppresses the digestive and reproduction systems and growth processes.
Prioritisation – now this may seem to be an obvious one, but when we have so many things accumulating on our ‘to do’ list and not enough time, its easy and natural to go into complete overwhelm. To help support us good planning is essential, I cannot live without a diary – juggling kids, work, home I need things written down and I regularly look through the next few weeks ahead of me. Chance are there will always be last minute ‘stuff’ eventuating but planning certain commitments helps me be better prepared when that ‘stuff’ does happen. When we go into overwhelm the bodys natural reaction is often to panic – that fight or flight mode I mentioned earlier! Prioritisation then becomes key in order keep your head above water and don’t beat yourself up, remember you are doing the best that you can! Now prioritisation is not quite as easy at it may seem especially when you are looking into the barrel of numerous deadlines and things that simply cant wait. You must however find a way to step back out of the fuzz of overwhelm and be practical. Ask yourself what is the order in which these things need to be addressed, what has to happen now and what actually can be put off in order to deal with the other thing first? Just to give you an example, whilst I know and understand this stuff, I too need to remind myself to prioritise. I often have days when I have my workspace covered in things that need doing and as much as I would like them done now, when I feel myself going into overwhelm, I just have to take a step back. When I really analyse what is on my plate and tackle the most critical thing first (ie that client that is due that I need to prep for or that presentation that needs revision before the event or my daughter that needs to be collected from preschool….) the other things get in line and I eventually get better flow. So it becomes very much about good planning and prioritisation. Once that first 1 or 2 are out of the way you feel like you have achieved something and can then move on to addressing the rest.
Limiting the internal stress and pressures also means to be mindful of your environment, what do you use on or around you by way of chemical products and what are you exposed to in your day to day life that could possibly be avoided? This can include cosmetics, cleaning products, pollution, non purified water etc..
So how do we conquer the stress effect and keep it away from us?
So we know that that stress is a big factor when it comes to our health and wellbeing but we don’t always understand that we are deeply stressed until its too late. We condition ourselves to think its normal. Its not! The first thing that needs to happen is to understand your own body and what happens when it feels stressed. Its a very powerful thing to know because when you do you can make decisions and support yourself through difficult times.
Stress Less – I know some of you will be thinking ‘yeah right!’ but there are big stresses and little stresses, life is full of them so I encourage you to really think about which ones you can let go of… are they really worthy of all your energy and health? I remember when I worked in London many years ago before I got into what I do now, having days when I’d be running late because the train was delayed or the bus changed route etc… I used to get really anxious inside about being late to the office. This is a good example of when to make a choice whether to take on those stressful feelings or let it go through to the keeper…. sometimes we cannot control those things around us and we need to remember that for a majority of those small things there is no nasty consequence, you’ve done your best, so forgive the situation, don’t beat yourself up and let it go.
I choose to not get stressed about those things that are simply called life and need not be worried about. I don’t beat myself up or feel worry about those things. I choose to flick stress away from me where possible so I can better manage the situations that do warrant my energy and I make sure I use a variety of the above to help support myself.
My tips above for a stress management toolkit give you some helpful information but you as an individual will find the right combination for you! And when you do make sure you put it into practice regularly, it will soon become second nature.
Know how to manage your stress before it manages you.