Everyday stresses and health

Handling everyday stresses well goes a long way in reducing our susceptibility to illness.  Time and time again when discussing lifestyle changes to support good health, I find myself talking about moderating stress levels.  It therefore seems about time I wrote a post on this subject!

What stresses cause problems

There are some major life events that will be stressful for nearly everyone – bereavement, redundancy and major illness to name just a few.  However, stress can also result from a buildup of many more minor challenges – an irritating colleague at work, preparing for Christmas or a holiday, keeping on top of chores at home, having to keep going when unwell etc.  Moreover, mobile phones have a lot to answer for.  Wherever we are, we can be constantly bombarded with texts, emails, phone calls and other notifications.  These frequent interruptions and demands on us for action can be draining and add to our stress levels.

Signs that stress is building up

Learn to recognise your personal signs that stress is getting on top of you.  These signs will vary from person to person and may be emotional or physical.  A few examples among very many that can arise include:

  • irritability
  • constantly worrying
  • feeling you can’t switch off or relax
  • over-eating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • breathing more shallowly and rapidly than usual
  • headaches
  • acid reflux
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • muscle tension, commonly achy shoulders

Once you learn to recognise you are stressed, you can take action to counter this.

How to relieve stress

Here are a number of ideas that you may find helpful.  Try a few and once you have identified some that you enjoy, incorporate them into your weekly routine:

  • set aside time for activities that are fun and make you feel good.  This can be as simple as spending time with a friend or having a good laugh.
  • get regular exercise.  Gentle exercise, such as walking, is relaxing while more vigorous exercise, like running or using a skipping rope, is a good way of using up the energy released in response to stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin.  (need some more ideas about exercise options? – try the NHS live well website)
  • if you are prone to repetitive or depressing thoughts, look for forms of exercise that also require mental concentration.  Climbing or bouldering has been found particularly useful for this.  (You can read more about this here.)
  • spend some time outdoors and in contact with nature.  Gardening, for example, has been repeatedly shown to have benefits for mental well-being.
  • consider checking your mobile phone less often and turning audible notifications off whenever you are not expecting an urgent communication
  • build up a social network and make time to relax with other people
  • try mindfulness meditation (for more info, see my post on natural ways to sleep better)
  • investigate other options that appeal to you.  You might consider journaling, praying, reading, painting and I am sure you can come up with many others once you start to think along these lines

Building your resilience to everyday stresses

Over time, measures like these will enable you to increase your emotional resilience so that you are better able to handle the pressures of your everyday life.  There are some more good ideas for how to do this on the website of Mind (the mental health charity).

Homeopathic treatment can also build resilience and it is common for people to report after treatment from me that they are less affected by things that would previously have caused them stress or that they now respond in more constructive ways.

A final thought

Ask yourself what you do each week (or at the very least once a month) that is just for you or just for pleasure.  If you are struggling to think of anything, maybe you could do to change that…