Many of us don’t realise just how stressed we are until we relax.
I came to this realisation when I was lying on a beach during a long overdue holiday – everything was perfect, until I suddenly felt overwhelmed by alien feelings. Was I sick? Was I forgetting something? After ferociously searching my phone for a missing calendar invite, it dawned on me. This was what it felt like to be relaxed. And this was the opposite to how I felt 99% of the time. Something had to change.
Our bodies are not designed to handle this non-stop, adrenaline fuelled pace, and rightly so. Stress is detrimental to our health. According to the Mayo Clinic, common side effects of long term stress include depression, insomnia, anxiety, digestive issues, heart disease, weight gain and memory and concentration impairments.
We need to slow down. Our bodies are not designed to keep up with 21st century robotic expectations of 24/7 working. Even if your job doesn’t allow for any down time, it's on you to allocate time to de-stress. Or, before you know it, life has whizzed passed you and not only have you struggeled to enjoy it but you also have a variety of stress-related diseases. Not a good place to be. Here are 6 ways to control your stress levels – before they control you.
1) Journal your stress
The first step to getting your stress under control is to figure out what is stressing you out. Spend a week periodically recording your stress levels and highlighting the source. You’ll learn a lot about your stress triggers.
The only sanity I had during my 12 hour days of full time law firm employment and part-time Bar school studying was the ability to hit the gym on the way home. This time to exercise became my daily release. I would desperately look forward to it after a hectic day. I would walk into the gym feeling stressed and leave feeling euphoric from the hormones whizzing around my brain after a strenuous workout. I can’t recommend exercise enough. It's vital to your enjoyment of life as it preserves you mentally and physically.
3)Put the technology away
Heavy technology use is linked to fatigue, stress and depression. A recent study, by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that individuals exposed to high amounts of technology were more likely to experience the following negative side effects:
- Those constantly accessible via cell phones were most likely to report mental health issues.
- Regular, late night, computer use was associated with sleep disorders, stress and depression.
- Frequently using a computer without breaks further increases the risk of stress, sleeping problems and depressive symptoms in women.
- Men who use computers intensively were more likely to develop sleeping problems.
It's advised that you designate certain times of the day to check messages and stick to that schedule – it's important that you have regular breaks from technology to avoid the above negative consequences.
4)Go drug free
If you take coffee for energy, take sleeping pills or drink wine in the evening to "wind down", your stress is out of control. Make small, achievable goals to daily reduce your drug intake to nothing.
5)Make a relaxation appointment
Work obsessed individuals usually reach a breaking point. To keep these breakdowns at bay, schedule a weekly relaxation appointment. This can be a massage, sauna time, yoga – whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you stick to this commitment. Mark it in your calendar and treat it like a work meeting.
If you can meditate, I envy you. If not then there are plenty of apps such as headspace – that offer free guided meditations. Another life saver for me was practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice consisting of core brain tricks to help bring you to surface during periods of stress. The overarching principle of mindfulness is to be present. This simply means, not letting your mind wander and focusing your attention on the present moment. Worry tends to creep into our minds when we reflect on the past or attempt to predict our future.