There is no question that 2018 has been a challenging year and that 2019 is likely to match it for ups and downs and surprises aplenty! If it isn’t the politicians acting like half-witted demi-gods it is “the children” surprising us with creative ways to give us headaches or our employers trying to compete with the politicians…..One thing that is a certain as Death and taxes is that 2019 will tax us to death with its twists and turns and buffoonery.
So what can we do to manage the madness and keep our heads from popping? Here are a few general things I find it useful to discuss with patients who are feeling overwhelmed by it alland don’t know where to turn, followed by a list of useful actions they can take – the 10 tips part…
Firstly, STRESS is not all bad. It is a very good motivator when it is seen from the proper perspective and can help us to achieve things we may have thought beyond our capacity – this is often the most overlooked element in that we all have a tendency to focus on the discomfort rather than the achievements.
Stress is also a given in this life. We cannot avoid it but we CAN CHOOSE how we allow it to affect us. It is when the Stress we perceive (and everyone perceives stress differently) is overwhelmingand we seem to have control over neither the sourcenor the outcomethat we get truly harmed by it…and the longer we feel overwhelmed and out of control the more damage Stress can do to us.
It is the Sympathetic nervous system that mediates the effects of Stress on our bodies, but we have the Parasympathetic nervous system to provide Balance – this list of tricks will largely involve actions that promoteParasympathetic tone(heal, rest, digest) as opposed to Sympathetic tone(fight flight)– there is fairly simple physiology behind the fixes I suggest.
So, here are the 10 tips in no particular order…
- Rest when you are sick and sleep when you are tired: both actions will support Immune function and reduce Adrenal burn; they will lead to feeling more energised and all systems will be able to function optimally.
- Avoid stimulants: Guarana, Caffeine, Coffee, Nicotine, Sugar…the list goes on and on of the little helpers we employ to help us get through the day! But the assistance comes with a price in much the same way you can’t operate forever on your credit card – the energetic loan will have to be repaid with interest. Replace these aids with herbal teas, lemon water or just plain water – hydration is often the best assistance for fatigue.
- Exercise regularly: to burn off/metabolise the hormones and mediators produced in stressful circumstances. It will also improve your appetite, reduce the desire for cigarettes and alcohol, and improve the quality of sleep. Brisk walking, Interval training, Laughter therapy and swimming are examples of useful exercise
- Employ easy relaxation techniques: there are an abundance of relaxation techniques available at the click of a mouse. Obviously exercise is already mentioned but beyond that are activities which specifically promote Parasympathetic tone. Here we could mention Yoga, Mindfulness, HRV training, singing, chanting, reading out loud, hot/cold therapy (sauna/cold pool), Breath holding techniques and Belly (diaphragmatic) breathing. My patients reading this will be very familiar with the latter as I make it a cornerstone of most therapeutic programs I design for them. Correct breath is the secret to health and to developing the mental and emotional perspective to be able to perceive things more clearly.
- Connect with People: A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help. The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever. Talking things through with a friend may also help you find solutions to your problems.
- Seek Counsellingfrom a trained therapist: where you feel you are unable to process or discuss your perceived trauma and stress with friends or family. More often the latter will suffice but where this is overly complicated or you don’t find it is helping, seek out a counsellor to offload on and use as a sounding board.
- Learn to say NO: A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Yet in this situation many people will still agree to take on additional responsibility. Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportantrequests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence.Many people find it hard to say “No” because they want to help and are trying to be nice and to be liked. For others, it is a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities. Remember that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created.
- Help Others: evidence shows abundantly that helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves through volunteering or community work helps to put our own problems into proper perspective. Proof perhaps of the truth that the more you give the more you receive. Small acts of kindness as part of your everyday life are equally effective at reducing stress and increasing happiness
- Silver Linings: they are always there to be found by the person willing to look. Every situation, however bad it seems, has some fragment or whisper of positive news about it. This is a spectacular way to turn darkness into light and find a better narrative through which to perceive/remember/process the stressful experience.
- Take control of what you can and accept what you can’t: taking control is empowering and opens up the possibility of you resolving a dilemma in a way that suits you rather than someone else. Remaining passive will simply increase the stress. Focus on those things you have control over and accept for the moment those things you don’t have control over.
If none of these seem to make enough of a difference for you – but you must try them first! – I am always at your service to advise on the best route to take treatment-wise to help you adjust your stress posture. I can be found at Thrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
message 083 789 9328 to make a booking for Dr Thomson