Hands up if you’re easily stressed-out? With one in four Aussies reporting moderate to severe levels of distress in 2014, if you went that’s me – you’re not alone.
Stress is an exhausting, controlling and sometimes incredibly overwhelming process. It can strike when you least expect it, or build up for days, weeks and even months – particularly if you let it get the better of you.
As a society we currently recognise several different degrees of stress. These include:
- Acute stress – sprung from the demands and pressures of the recent past and of the immediate future
- Episodic acute stress – those who suffer acute stress frequently – they often take on too much, are always in a rush and full of nervous energy
- Chronic stress – the grinding stress that wears people down and can destroy bodies, minds and lives
Acute stress is this most common type of stress that most of us experience in the day-to-day. It is usually short term and the result of emotional pressures, muscular, stomach and gut problems, as well as everyday situations such as an argument or work deadline. Sometimes this stress can feel good and inspire motivation such as the urge to get something done on a short time line, or the excitement of trying something new.
It was reported that the highest levels of stress and distress occur among young Australians aged between 18-35 (hello house deposits, choosing/building a career, finding love, starting a family and that all that good-stuff that typically comes in your 20s/early 30s). Putting measures in play to ensure you don’t lose your sanity and constantly carry that weight around with you is imperative to maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing.
Personally, I’m a sucker for stress. I often fail to recognise that I am stressed, then mismanage the emotions and pressures I put on myself (and my partner) choosing to power on thinking it will pass shortly, when really I should be taking five to reset my body and focus.
While this attitude doesn’t affect me at work or in my typical day-to-day, it takes a long-term toll on my body and which can affect my ability to perform and stay healthy, particularly when things get really busy, when my gut flora is out of whack or when flu-season kicks in. Hence why you need to know what your stress-triggers are.
What is your gut flora? The digestive system is home to trillions of micro organisms that colonise the gut making an amazing ecosystem all living together in harmony called the gut flora. Some products such as refined sugar, processed carbohydrates, non-organic dairy and meat and antibiotics often upset your gut flora balance. By taking care of our gut flora we may prevent or even reverse diseases such as heart disease, auto immune diseases, allergies or even cancer.
Your stress-triggers are the activities, thoughts, people or scenarios that cause you to over think things or experience unnecessary stress. These can be surprising, but identifying them can help significantly as you learn to unwind to improve wellbeing. Mine range from to-do lists to watching thought-provoking movies late at night – strange I know.
It was only once I assessed my own stress-triggers that I learnt how to listen to my body and to make a conscious effort to de-stress whenever the cortisol spiked. Ask yourself, what simple tasks or experiences keep you up at night?
Cortisol is an important hormone in the body that’s secreted by the adrenal glands. It has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
There is no silver-bullet to stress release, but acknowledging what makes you particularly irritable or high-strung can help you avoid certain situations or even better, learn to react and manage the emotions in a more considered way. When you prioritise your mind and body, it’s amazing how much more you can get done.
While I’m still mastering this process myself, here are my three steps to debunking stress:
- Firstly, recognise when you are unnecessarily stressed
- Consider and acknowledge what your stress-triggers are
- Put affirmative action in play to de-stress
- Get more good sleep
- Stretch your body
- Go on Pintrest or Instagram
- Play with a puppy
- Drink a herbal tea
- Get a professional massage
- Find your stress-free place – mine is my balcony when it’s in the sun at the beginning or end of the day
- Chat to a calming friend or family member
- Plan a holiday or visualise that you’re back on holidays (the above snap was taken during my recent and very relaxing trip to the Maldives!)
- Read a book or your favourite blog 😉
I’d love to hear what you do to unwind?