I take a holistic approach to stress management and resilience but I’d like to focus on some key physiological strategies here.
As I’ve explained, there are a range of behavioural, psychological and physiological symptoms to watch out for when under pressure. Here are four main areas which can have a huge impact on your physiological experience of stress, all well within your own control.
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of wellbeing, but it also has some direct stress-reducing benefits.
- Produces endorphins which create a natural mood boost
- Focusing on your physical movements can help reduce your awareness of daily tensions
- Improves sleep, which is often disrupted by stress
- Increases self-confidence
Limiting caffeine and alcohol
Alcohol and caffeine are both drugs which affect your nervous system, promoting the production of various hormones. Too much alcohol can increase symptoms of anxiety and have a lasting physical effect and caffeine causes the body to produce cortisol, the same hormone which is triggered when your system goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Reducing both of these external influences leaves you more in control of your body’s response to situations.
I’ve written elsewhere about the connection between our gut and our brain and the importance of harnessing the healing power of nutrition.
The fundamental elements to focus on when it comes to combating stress through your nutrition are what and how you eat. Concentrate on consuming nutritionally dense, whole foods and avoiding sweet and processed foods which actually leave you with a nutrient deficit.
Eating mindfully, taking the time to savour what you are eating, using as many of your five senses as possible will have a great impact on your stress levels. It is also important to ensure that you observe your patterns of eating and try to avoid mindless snacking, boredom eating or comfort eating, all of which can lead to their own negative repercussions.
Lastly, there are a range of relaxation methods you can introduce to your routine. It can be as simple as reading a good book in the bath or getting a massage, anything that will help your system to return to normal operating levels. Giving yourself the chance to mentally switch off allows for the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, the ‘rest and digest’ system.
If ‘indulgences’ like a long bath or a massage feel out of reach (our self-care is often the first area of life to slip when things start to become more pressured) then apps like Headspace and Calm offer good introductions to meditation and can be effective even when used for very short periods each day.
Understanding the how and why
I firmly believe that by gaining an understanding of how your brain and body reacts to pressure and stress, you’ll learn to interpret not just how you feel but why you feel like this. Strategies like the above which can alleviate the physiological side of your stress response can give you the control you need to regain some balance and space to better manage your thoughts, feelings and emotions going forward.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach to handling stress, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07837993241 and let’s get the conversation started.