I don’t think anyone can deny that during most of 2020 we have experienced high levels of stress. The causes have been many, and included COVID, political uncertainty, bush fires (in Australia and US) loss of jobs, lockdowns – these events have largely been outside of our control and this is why they are stressful. Stress is generally caused by something that is out of our control and the events of 2020 certainly were that.
So how does stress affect us and why does it affect some people more than others?
When under stress, your adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone,” and it causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. This is the natural “flight or fight” response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.
Although some stress can be useful, when your body is under constant stress it will constantly pump out cortisol and other stress hormones. This type of chronic stress puts you at risk of many health problems.
Do you know why some people are more susceptible to stress than others? You have no doubt noticed that when faced with the same stressful situation, not everyone reacts the same way. Some people fall apart while others are able to bounce back quite quickly.
One of the reasons for this is resilience.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from unexpected challenges or changes. The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed with practice. So, it’s possible to build your resilience to stress and reduce the negative impact.
Here are 6 simple resilience building techniques you can incorporate into your daily routine, to reduce the impact of stress on your health and life in general.
1. Exercise – do something to get your heart rate up, this increases endorphins which are feel good hormones, and will also help you sleep better (see # 4)
2. Eat well – avoid comfort food. It is common when stressed to reach for sugary comfort food (I do it too), but you will feel better if you eat healthy food such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables etc.
3. Stay hydrated – this is so easy to do but most people are mildly to severely dehydrated. If you are feeling thirsty you are already dehydrated, if you have developed a headache you are severely dehydrated. About 2 ½ litres of water is usually recommended. This is another one I am guilty of.
4. Sleep - Stress and sleep are interrelated and if you are stressed it can interfere with your sleep. Most adults need 6 ½ - 8 hours sleep every night and contrary to popular belief you can’t catch up on sleep on the weekend. Sleep clears out the toxins stored in our bodies and flushes it out. Poor sleep has been found to contribute to early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For more in-depth strategies for improving sleep and reducing stress, enroll in a free online course here.
5. Breathe – It sounds obvious but taking slow deep breaths a couple of times a day will increase oxygen to your brain as well as creating a feeling of relaxation.
6. Meditation – learning to meditate or practicing mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve an overall sense of wellbeing.
Which of these small changes can you build into your daily routine?
I am going to try to work on #2 and #3 to improve my resilience to stress.
What are you going to work on? Keep yourself accountable by commenting below.
If you would like some other strategies for dealing with stress and sleep, you can access my free online course here.
If you would like to chat with me about work related stress or changing careers, book an obligation free 15 call here.