By Christine Carey
Life is full of new experiences and discoveries, deadlines and demands. This way of life can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. Stress isn’t always bad, however. In small doses, it can help motivate you to do your best and perform under pressure. But when you’re living in a perpetual state of emergency, your mind and body can pay the price and you can start to feel out of balance.
Stress is cumulative. Your early signs of stress may include headaches, irritability, nervous stomach or disrupted sleep. Once you learn to recognise your own early warning signs, you will know that these symptoms are your body’s way of telling you to slow down and find a way to de-stress. If you do not heed the warning, your stress and anxiety can continue to build and cause serious disruption emotionally, physically, and socially. Stress can impact your relationships, your ability to concentrate or communicate, and it can have a negative effect on your immune system, making you more prone to illness.
You can protect yourself by recognising the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.
Stress affects every aspect of our lives. You may experience mental, behavioural, physical and emotional symptoms. While these symptoms are common during stressful times, people with anxiety disorders may experience them in absence of a stressful experience.
• On your body: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, sleep problems, frequent illness
• On your emotions: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger, sadness or depression, forgetfulness, feeling overwhelmed, insecurity
• On your behaviour: Over or under-eating, angry outbursts, drug/alcohol use, social withdrawal, sleeping too much or too little, relationship conflicts, crying spells, avoidance/procrastination
Stress management is an important skill and it is worth taking the time to figure out what works best for you. Taking care of your mind and body can go a long way toward managing your stress level and help restore yourself to balance. Here are some suggestions:
• Get enough sleep
• Eat a healthy diet. Sugar and processed foods can make stress worse.
• Exercise regularly. Find movement you enjoy that allows you to release tension.
• Learn deep breathing/relaxation techniques.
• Pay attention to negative self-talk.
• Practice saying “no” to situations and people that add stress to your life
• Get a massage.
• Talk with a friend or someone you trust.
• Limit your caffeine intake.
• Avoid using alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to relieve stress.
• Manage your time and energy. You can prioritise your “to-do” list based not only on time but on your energy for the task.
• Take time for relaxation, fun and hobbies.
• All health content in this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.
Christine is a certified holistic health and life coach (www.christine-carey.com), partner at Liquid Nutrition (www.liquidnutrition.com) and director of Corporate Wellness at 242 Consulting (www.242consulting.com).