Stress Awareness Month
You may or may not know that April marks stress awareness month; an annual 30 day period that encourages people up and down the country to raise public understanding about the causes and potential remedies to stress. Informative and helpful, it has been held annually since 1992, and concentrates on a very important issue that we face in our modern day world.
We’re always told how important it is to manage stress levels; but what is stress?
Put simply it is the body’s reaction to demands or threats, whether they be real or imagined, physical or mental; it can affect both our emotional and physical wellbeing. Stress can initiate the release of neurochemicals and hormones preparing for a ‘fight or flight’ response as the body’s way of protecting or helping you to cope or deal with those demands.
Factors causing our responses can be external; resulting from the environment, psychological or social situations; these include your job, your home, relationships with others, and general challenges, responsibilities and decisions/difficulties faced in daily life.
Or they can be internal; such as an illness or medical procedure.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and not necessarily a bad thing, it can make us productive, efficient and motivated in our lives. It is the prolonged, unexpected or unmanageably high levels of stress and their emotional, behavioural and physical impact that we need to be aware of.
It is important so that we don’t become overwhelmed and unable to cope with demands, which can then manifest themselves in negative ways and affect overall health and general wellbeing. Symptoms or conditions can develop or worsen due to the stress response, some of which can be potentially debilitating, affecting everyday life, and even requiring treatment. They can be both mental and physical. Examples can include: mood changes, anxiety, depression, muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, autoimmune disorders, sleep disturbances/problems - such as insomnia, digestive issues - such as IBS. This is why stress management is so important and not to be overlooked.
There are many healthy lifestyle and coping strategies that can help you to manage stress.
Being active and undertaking regular exercise is one very important step you can take to help you to manage stress. It can act as a distraction, something else to focus on, or an outlet to get out your frustrations. Exercise also reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body such as cortisol which can increase resilience by reducing your sensitivity to stress. It also boosts your body’s endorphin levels – the feel-good chemicals that give you a natural high.
Regular exercise can go a long way towards breeding positivity, and helping to change a person’s outlook on situations. Quite often exercising can involve mixing with others; that added social support of being around, and having fun with other people can really give your mood a boost for further positive effects. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 - 4 times a week. Though do make sure to avoid anything too strenuous or high intensity late in the evening, as this can disrupt your sleep patterns and make it harder for you to drop off to sleep.
Adopt Relaxation Techniques
Yoga, deep breathing and mindfulness meditation are all examples that are good for stress control and your health, concentrating on restoring balance and harmony to your body and emotions; these strategies can have lasting and beneficial effects on your physical and mental wellbeing, making you more resilient to stress, and boosting your energy and mood.
Time management and organisation
Work on prioritising tasks. Keep a diary or planner to consult with. This will keep you organised and make sure you do not over pack your schedule. It might also help you to identify time-wasting tasks that can be avoided or reduced, freeing up more time that can be put to better use.
Try to keep your physical surroundings organised (such as your desk, office, wardrobe, car and kitchen). For example periodically declutter if you can; things such as clearing your desk of old paperwork, and your home of clutter that can accumulate over time. Not being faced with a mess and just knowing where things are rather than coping with extra stress of misplaced items can be a big help.
Eat for wellbeing and stay hydrated
Eating a regular and well balanced diet containing all of the various food groups, including wholegrains and plenty of fruit and veg, can really help. A good diet supports the immune system, keeps blood sugar levels stable, can improve brain function, reduce toxins and even lower blood pressure. If you can, avoid skipping meals and eat small regular meals including healthy snacks. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and eating highly refined and processed foods such as white bread, biscuits, cakes and sweets. This can help to keep your mood and energy levels stable.
Know your limits
Do not put too much pressure on yourself to take on every task. Learn to say no, share the load or delegate, and don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. If you try to take on too much or more than you can potentially cope with then you are likely to get overwhelmed and feel like you are setting yourself up for a failure which is bad for your health.
Schedule some ‘Me’ time
Ever heard of the saying ‘Time is money’? Well another saying is that ‘Health is wealth.’ Without your health you have nothing, so putting this first and taking some time for yourself can actually make you more productive. Schedule in those breaks at work and take them. If you can’t take a full hour take a few short breaks, 10 or 20 minutes to yourself can help you to relax and refocus, allowing you to stay on top of your game, and don’t feel guilty for it. Make sure to use your leisure time for activities you enjoy and spend time with loved ones, it can make all the difference to your wellbeing.
Switch off - Detox from Tech
It might feel like we are living in a 24 hour society where we have to be constantly switched on, but sometimes taking a break from technology should be welcomed. Removing this pressure temporarily can help us to relax better and is good for your body and mind. Rather than constantly using social media meet up with your friends in person. Switch off your mobile phone during mealtimes to enjoy time uninterrupted, and don’t check work emails on an evening.
Get enough quality sleep.
Achieving the recommended 7 hours a night can keep our bodies working optimally and reduce the impact of stress. Our bodies repair and recover during sleep, so the more uninterrupted hours you get the better you will feel.
Here are a few useful tips that might help you get a restful night…
Banning tech from the bedroom - Switching off your television, tablets and phones for an hour or more so before bed will mean you are less exposed to the blue light from the screens which can keep us awake and prevent us from dropping off to sleep. Why not try reading a good book, listening to some relaxing music, or taking a nice warm bath instead.
Put thought into your environment – Creating a relaxing and comfortable environment can be key to a good night’s sleep. Things such as dimming the lighting, minimising noise, fitting good quality curtains/blinds that effectively block out external light, keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature (around 20°C is normally best for most people), replacing uncomfortable beds, mattresses and pillows; these things can all help.
Keep a notebook by your bed – Some people find it helpful as they can jot down thoughts that might occur, such as jobs they need to do the following day. Knowing you have made a note and won’t forget important things which might otherwise keep you awake can help you drop off to sleep easier.
Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee later on the day.
Avoid eating late at night – Having to digest a large meal just before bed can delay you falling asleep and reduce your sleep quality.
Try to stick consistently to set sleep and wake times – even on weekends, avoiding long or unplanned naps. Irregular sleep patterns can affect your circadian rhythm (this is your natural body clock) and melatonin levels (a natural hormone produced in the body to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle).
Montmorency Cherry capsules could also be helpful as a supplement, as Tart Montmorency cherries are rich in antioxidants and are also a known source of melatonin.
Additional help in managing stress can be achieved by introducing natural herbal alternatives. Adding adaptogenic herbs to your routine can make you more resilient to pressure and protect the body from its damaging effects. Adaptogens are a class of rejuvenating herbs, helpful for fighting stress, anxiety and fatigue by balancing the way the body adapts and responds, and this can help to benefit your mind, energy levels and immune system.
Specifically Rhodiola Rosea is said to be fatigue-fighting and good overall for general health and wellbeing. It is said to mediate the ‘fight or flight’ stress responses to help improve energy levels, physical performance and memory – making it good for temporary relief at times of acute stress and anxiety.
Korean (Panax) Ginseng Tablets – Another adaptogenic herb works to protect the body against stress and fatigue. This supplement has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a natural remedy to help boost energy and improve focus. A member of the ginger family with antioxidant properties, the main active ingredients are said to be the compounds called Ginsenosides. Studies have shown that Ginseng benefits cognitive performance and memory.
Ashwaghanda capsules – Commonly referred to as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic herb that has been widely recognised since ancient times. It has traditionally been used for its rejuvenating and restorative benefits. It is said to boost the immune system as well as reducing stress and fatigue. By modulating the body's cortisol levels and the response to stress and changing environments, it helps the body to maintain its fine balance in order to cope with external and internal stresses we face.
Hellenia make KSM-66® Ashwaghanda capsules. A registered trademark, meeting the highest quality standards. It is derived only from the roots of the plant, and extensive research & development have led to a unique extraction process that makes it the highest concentration full spectrum extract on the market.
We hope you’ve picked up some useful information reading this article that you can carry with you and put into practice. The importance of stress management should never be underestimated.
For further health news and product information visit www.hellenia.co.uk