Manage your stress
Stress, as we have seen, is one of the most substantial contributors to mental health issues. Chronic stress can cause gut issues, hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, inflammation, etc… Stress, however, is subjective.
What to some may seem stressful, seems less so to others. We all respond differently to different circumstances. Regardless of our stress tolerance and perceptions of stress, we must learn to manage our stress, and practice daily habits that will help us increase our stress resilience for optimal mental health.
Many of the strategies below, if implemented regularly, will help you to manage your stress. Many of them are free, and simply require commitment to a daily practice.
One of the most effective ways of managing your stress and increasing stress resilience is to practice healthy breathing.
When we are stressed, our breathing can become shallow, inefficient, and affect our physiology in such a way as to contribute to further to mental health issues such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia and depression.
By correcting our breathing, we can improve our symptoms, and help manage our stress.
Being in nature and natural light can immediately calm our nervous system, and help us to manage our stress. It can give us perspective on stressful situations, and allow us to reconnect to what is essential in our lives.
Chronic stress can deplete a healthy biochemistry (through its effects on our gut, inflammation, hormones and neurotransmitters), and yet, in a vicious circle, a healthy, balanced biochemistry is essential to withstanding chronic stress and the mental health issues arising from stress, such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, etc…
One of the most effective ways for us to manage our stress is to eat a healthy, balanced diet at regular intervals, avoiding problem foods, and focusing on healing foods and supplements. Read more about how to correct your nutrition and supplement by clicking on the links below.
Toxic overload from pollutants such as harmful chemicals, moulds bacteria, etc… can deplete our ability to manage stress by causing hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, gut issues, etc…
Avoiding toxins in our daily lives, and optimising our body’s ability to detoxify will help us manage stress by helping us to balance our physiology and optimise the proper functioning of our organs.
Engaging in mental therapy, whether self therapy or with a therapist can be an effective way to help manage stress. Therapy can help us by:
- Giving us coping tools and practices which can help to manage stressful situations
- Helping us to simply talk about what is stressing us, and relieve us by getting it off our chest and sharing it
- Helping us to understand the root cause of some of our stress, put it in perspective, and find solutions to stressful situations
Exercise can be an effective way to manage stress. The right exercise can help to relax the nervous system, balance our hormones, release brain-healthy chemicals, and improve our breathing. It can also give us perspective on our stress and respite from the stresses of daily life.
- A spiritual practice, whether through organised religion, or a self practice, can help us to manage our stress by giving us a larger perspective on the events, circumstances, thoughts and feelings of our daily lives
- A spiritual practice can help us feel a sense of belonging and purpose, and a connection to a power higher than ourselves, all of which can help us feel less stressed
- Belonging to a community is also a good way to manage stress, as the emotional and physical support we can get from a community (whether it is a religious community or a secular one; one revolving around hobbies, interests, or simply our neighbourhoods) is an invaluable support in helping us to cope with stress
- Finally, feeling a sense of purpose and meaning can calm our nervous systems, and help us to feel that whatever stressors we are undergoing are worth it in the grand scheme of things
In our 24/7 connected societies, our attention is constantly being distracted and our energies drained through constant communication, connection with others and social media. There is less and less down time, and our dopamine-loving brains don’t even want down time, even though we may know we need it.
Managing our technology and social media use is an essential component to managing our stress.
One of the most effective ways to manage stress and increase our resilience to stress is meditation.
- It lowers cortisol, the key stress hormone
- It enhances neuroplasticity, especially of the parts of the brain that have to do with planning, discipline, control, execution and mastery, all of which can be helpful in managing the stress in our lives
- It helps give us perspective on our circumstances, thoughts and feelings, and puts stressful situations in a wider context
- It helps us become aware of negative thinking which may cause us further stress
A daily meditation practice can be one of the most important steps you can take to manage your stress.
Mind body therapies – whether yoga, qi gong, acupuncture, reiki etc… can be incredibly helpful in developing our stress resilience. They can do this by helping us to:
- Balance our nervous system, our hormones, and our neurotransmitters
- Help us put our stresses into perspective
- Encourage our energy to flow more freely, as stress can block our vital energy, creating imbalances and dysfunctions in our physiology
One of the best ways to counter stress and develop stress resilience is to practice relaxation techniques on a regular basis, ideally daily.
With regular practice, you will find your ability to manage stress increases exponentially, as your nervous system calms down, your hormones and neurotransmitters become more balanced, and you are more able to deal with the stresses of daily life.
Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night can help you develop stress resilience, and balance your hormones, neurotransmitters and nervous system, which are all important for stress management.
In an unfortunate vicious circle however, often it is precisely during periods of stress that sleep is one of the first things to suffer, and we are not able to get the 7 to 8 hours which would help us cope better with stress!
To optimise your ability to sleep during particularly stressful times you can experiment with various techniques to help you sleep better.