Saturday 17 August, 2019

6 ways you can fight stress today

By Meisha-Gay Mattis

Irrespective of how well balanced your life may be, or how many hours of yoga and meditation you practise weekly, some amount of stress is inescapable.

There are many times in a day that you are faced with stressors, whether it’s being cut off on the road by a taxi driver who then stops suddenly to let off a passenger, or the fact that your phone has been chiming with work email notifications from 6 am, or your child spills juice on himself just as you’re both about to head out the door. It’s a part of life in the same sense that ‘things just happen.’ We often accept these daily incidents without any indication that we are stressed out, as they are not constant or persistent.

Stress, particularly prolonged periods of tension, can create havoc in the body. Separate and apart from just putting you in a bad mood, it affects your sleep cycle, diminishes thyroid function, impairs memory and cognitive function, elevates blood pressure and intensifies aches and pains. Ever paid attention to that back, neck or shoulder pain that randomly or not so randomly occurs? It could be an indication that you’re experiencing a stressful situation.


Managing stress doesn’t always require a vacation or a trip to the therapist. There are simple measures you can use to protect your headspace on a daily basis to ward off or reduce the effects of some common stressors.


1. Ditch Unwanted Stress

Believe it or not, we sometimes put ourselves in stressful situations. This is what I refer to as unwanted or avoidable stress. You can ditch the unwanted stress, but first you have to be able to identify what exactly is causing the stress. If being stuck in traffic results in your freaking out at the crazy taxi drivers on the road, then maybe you should prioritise leaving earlier to avoid dealing with traffic congestion that heightens your road rage.


2. Give the Screen a Break

We’ve become constantly obsessed with checking our mobiles devices for the next social media update, or the news media that feeds us nothing but an endless cycle of corruption, death, and terror. In most cases you are powerless to do anything where the actual situation is happening, so ask yourself if it worth it becoming depressed by all the dreadful news. We have to learn to decrease our dependency on instantaneous updates. Watch or read enough to stay informed, but don’t take in so much that you stay angry or become a nervous wreck.


3. Get Moving

The benefits of exercise for the heart have been well documented through the years. It is also good for the head. I’m not talking about hitting the gym five days a week for two-hour workouts. I’m referring to enough movement to get the heart rate elevated at least thirty minutes daily, five days per week. Start with something that you really enjoy doing. Regular movement results in positive changes to the body physically, your metabolism and even you spirit, keeping your adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) in check. According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, “it also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the ‘runner's high’ and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts—or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.”


4. Catch Some Zzzzzs
Sleep is not something to compromise. In fact, some researchers believe that sleep plays an even bigger role in living a healthy life than diet and exercise. Dr Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, has said, “Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep...If you sleep better, you can certainly live better.” How rested the body is can determine your ability to manage when faced with stress. Being tired makes you easily agitated and less patient, which consequently increases stress. Seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended for the average adult.


5. Reflect

At times, just looking ahead to the mountain of tasks to be undertaken in an day is enough to suck the life out of you. Flip the switch by starting each day with a grateful heart by reflecting on what is actually going great and being appreciative of it. This helps to put things into perspective and create a sense of calm before the distractions of the days take hold. I practice morning reflections before I even pick up my cellphone and become bombarded with all that's not so good in the world. This way, I express my gratitude for what’s actually going right.


6. Engage in Mindfulness

Set aside a little time daily to meditate, as little as a minute or two. If you're curious about meditation or new to it, there are several guided meditation apps to check out. There are various ways to meditate, but one of the most common practices is through deep breathing exercises. By training our bodies to achieve a state of relaxation on a daily basis, we can reduce everyday stress, enhance our moods, lower blood pressure and improve digestion. Mindfulness increases awareness and control, which is key to beating stress.


Contributed by Meisha-Gay Mattis, founder of Bodhi, a Kingston-based holistic wellness company. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Personal Fitness Trainer. Email for more information or visit any of the following 

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