Stress – How to Self-Manage
Gone are the days of being chased by grizzly bears or saber tooth tigers. The “fight or flight” response, sending a rush of hormones throughout the body. Causing us to either don the furry loin cloth and fight the animal, or to make a break for it Scooby Doo style. In society today, we have swapped angry fluffy animals with traffic jams and incompetent management.
Whilst we may have toned down on the killer bears, our brains continue to perceive todays threats in a similar way. Unfortunately, it is frowned upon to kick your boss down the stairs or drive the wrong way down the M25 on the clear side, so for now we need to find other methods to manage our stress. With the constant fear of not using your ‘inside voice’ at work, we need to find an alternative to burying your head in the sand and hoping the stress goes away.
You will be pleased to know there is an alternative, and that is exercise. Is there anything exercise can’t do?
It makes sense when you think about it further. If we take it back to this pesky bear, it will help us understand the process. The stress response in the body would be in anticipation of physical exercise. It would either need to fuel our cowardly fleeing legs or to fuel our valiant muscles in our attempt to fist fight this bear. The problem comes when we fast forward a few thousand years. The stress response becomes elevated from a snotty email and it is shortly followed by minimal movement (aside from some frantic keyboard typing, an eye roll and a deep sigh). A review in the New York Academy of Sciences states that “the energy mobilized is not used but is stored in visceral fat depots”, which is not a good position to be in.
Also, if you don’t want to take my word for it, the American Psychological Association has stated “Preliminary evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.” This translates as, get off your arse and move more and you will be a little bit happier.
I would suggest finding a form that exercise that brings you joy and challenges you. I personally enjoy training with weights, and I use that time to switch off from all other tasks within the day to focus on myself. Weights isn’t for everyone, so I would try out a few sports and see which one gives you the biggest smile.
One method to combat this onslaught of pressure is to be mindful of how you feel. It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget how much we have taken on. I’m sure most mums and dads can relate to this. Planning a unicorn themed birthday party for 50 screaming kids, all whilst doing the washing, cleaning and working a full-time job. Taking a rare 5 minutes out of your day to think about nothing but yourself is a highly satisfying feeling. Forget the lists, the chores and the endless number of tasks that need to be completed. They will still be there regardless. Find a calm spot to close your eyes, take deep slow breaths and have some ‘me’ time.
Being aware of your stress levels can help you overcome and register this feeling in your head. I find the same level of accountability with clients that come to me trying to lose weight. Just by writing a food diary and be consciously aware of what they are eating most people tend to lose weight within the first week. This is the same if you stopped for a moment and was consciously aware of your mind-set. Imagine you are viewing your own life from someone else’s perspective and making decisions about someone else’s life.
This one is aimed at the controlling individuals out there. Learning that you can’t control every aspect of your life is a skill, and like most skills, should be practised regularly. Doing the rain dance or trying to set fire to your boss with your eyes doesn’t work….trust me. There will be certain tasks within your day that just won’t get completed and you need to say, “I’m fine with that”. Learn to accept that the email inbox won’t ever reach that dream zero figure.
You are the most important person. You may be in a position in which you are required to care for young children, old people or lazy partners (or a combination of all three), but you are still the most important person. If you don’t care for yourself and your own needs, how are you going to care for others? Take moments out of your day and make it all about you. Run a nice bath, go for a walk, or just have 10 minutes of meditation in a quiet place.
I hope you can use a couple of these tips to minimise stress and be in happy place in your head. I’m fully aware that stress is inevitable in your life, and I’m sure the next person to cut you up in the car is still going to get the finger (or at least a very stern tut). Try and practice a couple of these techniques and find out which ones suits you. If after trying a couple of self-help techniques, you are continuing to feel overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, be sure to seek professional help. Events that cause stress will not change, the mind-set that you deal with them will.
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.