Stress seems to be a a 21st century epidemic and its not difficult to see why. Everything in life moves so quickly we barely pause for breath. Long hours at work, mortgages and bills to stay on top of, roads full of cars, trains crammed with people. The potential for stress seems to sit round every corner.
Dissecting the finer details and complexities of stress is the basis of a deeper and more detailed story but there are some simple steps you can take to start taking a bit of control. Becoming aware of stress levels is now part of my commitment to self care and when I feel them rising there are a few key places I look for some quick easy releases.
1. Turn the technology feeds off – Yep I’m talking all of them. E-Mail, Social Media, News, Twitter. Did you know that there are now more mobile devices than people in the world ? There is increasing evidence that we are becoming addicted to technology. People are absolutely bombarded with information and it sits right there at our fingertips, bonging away every five seconds on a smart phone. Do you really need to instantaneously know that you mate just checked in at the gym or the Bank of England reduced the base rate by 0.25%? Will your mates gym session go any better for you “liking” it? No. Thats not to say we shouldn’t enjoy our technology. Just be more disciplined about when you use it.
2. Switch yourself off – When I ask people how they relax the most common response I get is “Watching TV” Lets explore this. Is TV designed to help us switch off? No. Switching off is the last thing the TV bosses want us to do. What do you watch? X Factor? The News? Soap Opera’s? Think about whats happening emotionally when you do this. Excited? Angry? Jealous? Watching TV may be giving your body a rest but not your mind. I recommend mindfulness as a way to regenerate the brain as its simple and accessible. You can find a wealth of resources out there to help develop your technique but if you want to just give it a go why not try practising a breathing technique and focusing on the breath for a few minutes each day. You will be surprised at just how busy your mind is!
3. Go for a walk – This has 2 benefits. Firstly, you get some exercise. A lot of my patients don’t register walking as exercise because we seem to only register physical activity with going to the gym. Actually the traditional Chinese view of health would take quite a dim view of all that heaving straining and sweating. Traditional exercises such as Tai-Chi are far more sedate but get the blood and energy flowing all the same. The second advantage of walking is you get some natural light. Studies of seasonal affective disorder suggest a clear link between natural light and mood so getting this into your daily routine is really important, particularly since so few of us now work outside, instead staring at manufactured light on computers all day. Get outdoors and revel in all that fresh air! If the suns out even better since sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D!
4. Sit down and eat properly – This isn’t a diet lecture. There are a whole bundle of resources out there on what you should and shouldn’t eat, some good, some rubbish. I do give dietary advice but one of the most overlooked aspects about food is how you eat it which is arguably as important as the food itself. Buying a healthy lunch then shoving it down at your desk between meetings is a waste of good food. Eat 3 times a day, every day, and take enough time to sit down and eat these meals properly, preferably at a table, but at least without distractions like TV, work and yes those retched smart phones again! You will digest better and therefore feel better. Less indigestion, more energy and who knows, you may even lose weight. Once you’ve nailed that we can start thinking about what type of food we actually put in!
5. Give yourself a break once in a while – One of things we struggle with in the West is this sense that one shower ruins the summer. If we have a chocolate bar our whole diet is a failure. Its a huge barrier to progress because rather than seeing it as a set back or a one off it becomes the end of the line. Out comes the ice-cream, on goes the Shakira (Bridget Jones for those who missed the reference). What we miss is the massive triumph of the 1, 2, 10 days before. Life is for living and whilst having self discipline is a wonderful thing having fun is an essential part of life too. If you fall off the wagon, remind yourself you’re human, applaud yourself for everything you’ve achieved AND for recognising your human limitations and start again tomorrow.
So there they are. 5 simple steps on a long journey. Thank you for reading and good luck. Do remember to check in again for more health a wellness tips.
Written by Tony Sigrist
Tony is a qualified Acupuncturist with a lot of experience in managing mental health. He is available for talks and presentations to businesses and groups and also has a private practise in Ely Cambridgeshire where he see’s patients for individual support across a full range of physical and mental health conditions. Contact him today to discuss your individual needs.