8 essential habits for a stress free life
Long term stress has a big impact on our general health. The chemical cocktail that is released into the body during periods of stress is detrimental to both physical and mental health. The human body is resilient enough to deal with occasions of extreme stress but long term and consistent high stress levels can be extremely damaging. Heart health, skin and blood pressure all suffer. We become more prone to illness and disease overall. Just as we talk about good diet habits we should also exercise good stress reduction habits. Paying attention to the stress barometer and implementing habits and behaviours that keep an emotional balance.
It is really important to honour both your physical and emotional needs in reducing day to day stress. Building habits around good self-care will make a considerable difference to your anxiety levels, mental and physical health and enjoyment of life.
- Feed your body a full spectrum of nutritious foods. Ensuring you have adequate nutrients that support the nervous system such as Biotin, Copper, Iodine, Magnesium, Potassium, B2, Thiamine, B12 and B6. Try to cut down on stressors such as coffee, alcohol, processed foods, saturated fat and refined wheat. Make sure you have a good balance of fresh Vegetables, Fruit, Oil rich fish, Nuts & Seeds, Whole grain foods, fibre and protein.
- Make regular space to do the things that make your heart sing. Play, relax, get the heart pumping, whatever puts you in a state of joy.
- Cater to your emotional needs by acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to address any issues that arise without pushing them to one side.
- Focus on your self-esteem by watching how you speak to yourself. Praise your achievements and forgive yourself, nobody’s perfect.
- Nurture yourself through balance. Focus on a formula of work rest and play that caters to your emotional wellbeing as well as productivity.
Keep to 3 essential tasks
This one is simple. Look at your to do list with another piece of blank paper on standby. Write three of the most important things at the top of the blank sheet and ignore everything else. If you get time in the day go back over the other items. Chances are you overload yourself on a daily basis and this creates long term stress which is extremely damaging to our health. You will also feel calmer knowing that you have achieved the three most important tasks of the day. Make it a habit to realistically asses what you have on your plate and build in reasonable time scales in getting those things done.
Listen to your body. Follow the cues and rest when you need to, move your body when it feels right and don’t force focus when things seem foggy. Maintaining awareness of physiological signals helps you respond appropriately, reducing the buildup of damaging long term stress that can manifest into a serious mental health issue. Develop a gentle curiosity and be aware of what is happening within and without. It can be tempting to push on through every day to get things done but this can be punishing to both body and mind. We should naturally follow an energetic ebb and flow through maintaining awareness of our physical and mental states.
Detach from drama
What springs to mind when I say drama? Office squabbles? Social media spats? certain people or places? TV programs or the news? Tune into what makes you feel stressed and then tune it out. Take it off your radar. If it is particular people than distance yourself from them. Stop consuming anxiety inducing media. Don’t hang around when the gossip or back biting starts. Become aware of what puts undue strain on your nervous system. Detox from anything that makes you feel anxious. We often don’t pay enough attention, endlessly consuming or experiencing things that bring on stress and anxiety. Cut it loose.
Spending some quiet time alone can lessen the buildup of stress and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, easing you into a rest and digest state. We often don’t realise how consistently we are in a state of hyper arousal and alert to potential danger. In modern times this ‘danger’ is often being late for appointments and pickups, making sure there is something for dimmer, meeting work deadlines and keeping up with social engagements. Alone time can turn down the volume in a noisy and stimulating world. Spending time in peace and quiet helps settle the mind and clear brain fog. Whether walking in nature, sitting in the bath or garden, tuning out the noise for a little time each day can help you achieve balance not burn out.
Paying attention to your breath is an essential habit in keeping stress and anxiety at bay. When we are stressed or anxious we tend to breathe through the upper chest in shallow breaths. This can bring on associated symptoms of anxiety such as hyperventilation, tingling, rapid heartbeat, brain fog and panic. Everyday stresses can escalate to a continual feeling of threat and Shallow breathing is your bodies way of preparing you to fight or run. Deep breathing in contrast helps to ignite the parasympathetic nervous system that eases your body into a rest and digest state. Take time in the day to breathe deeply from the belly whilst consciously relaxing your muscles. Breath in for a count of 5, hold your breath for 2 and breath out for 6.
How often do you find yourself pushed and pulled according to others wants and needs People can be needy and that includes those you love and care about. The problem is that without clear boundaries you can find yourself over committing to things that benefit others but leave you at stress factor 10. Fundamentally you are putting yourself at the bottom of the list. Establishing good boundaries around your time and how you expect to be treated pays dividends for your health.
Focus on one thing
Multi-tasking is a skill right? We have always thought that being able to do many things at once is a good thing but it has been proven to diminish the quality of your work and cause high levels of stress. If you are in the habit of picking up 10 balls and juggling them try only handling one. The perception is that we can’t get everything done but we tend to get more finished, improving our output and remaining in a healthy stress free state.