While a little stress is healthy and may help you stay motivated to reach that deadline, chronic stress is incredibly damaging to your health. These 7 easy strategies will help you beat stress and stay cool as a cucumber.
Yes, it is the start of the year and maybe it is not the busiest or most stressful time of the year for you. You are probably still basking in the rays of post-holiday bliss and not even feeling the slightest hint of pressure.
Perfect! Now is the time to put some stress management techniques into practice. Why? Because prevention is always better than cure. And because, if you wait until you are pulling your hair out, grinding your teeth and snapping at your cat for wanting a cuddle, it will be significantly harder. Trust me – I’ve been there. My cat is very understanding.
So why should you even care about taking some time to chill out? Isn’t everybody stressed? Isn’t it normal? Well, here’s the thing ladies – stress may be common, but that definitely does not mean it is normal. In fact, while a little stress is healthy and may help you stay motivated to reach that deadline, chronic stress is incredibly damaging to your health.
How stress impacts your health
Many of us don’t even give a second thought to our hormones until we are either pregnant (or trying to conceive) or we are going through menopause, at which stage we blame everything on our hormones. But our hormones control more than we think – from our mood, to our skin, to our digestion and even our ability to store and burn fat. One of the hormones directly impacted by stress is cortisol, otherwise known as our stress hormone. Every time something stresses us out, cortisol releases. Every now and then, this is an appropriate response for our body to have, however when it becomes ALL THE TIME, we run into problems. You see, our stress hormones and our sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) start with the same material (a hormone called pregnenolone). When our body senses danger (stress), it says “bugger you sex hormones, I need to get out of here!” and makes cortisol production a priority, leaving our ovaries high and dry (literally!). When these little babies get out of whack, you can expect to feel pretty dodgy, and chances are you won’t be looking too sharp either – sorry, but this is the reality! You want to feel good and look amazing? Then chill out, lady!
Our nervous system has two modes, and two modes only – “fight or flight” (sympathetic) and “rest and digest” (parasympathetic). It can’t be in two places at once. When you are stressed (and this could be something as simple as a little road rage on the way to work), your body flicks into “fight or flight mode”, directing blood away from your digestive system and out to your muscles (because it’s preparing you to fight or take flight from something/someone). When blood is drawn away from the digestive system, it’s not going to be able to do its job properly. What results could be any number of not-so-ladylike symptoms: indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, gas. Sexy, right? On top of this, it is unlikely you will be absorbing all of the nutrients from your food, which means your overall health will suffer.
Non-existent sex life
See point one:
Low sex hormones + Feeling and looking crappy = No hanky panky
Social life? What social life?
This could come from two angles. One – you have so much to do that you can’t possibly go out and have fun. If you did, you would feel unbelievably guilty, right? I’ve been there. So not worth it. Prioritise fun and everything else will fall into place. Two – because you have burnt out your stores of cortisol, you physically can’t drag your tired little butt off the couch to put on some heels and go for a dance. Hello, adrenal fatigue (AKA burnout).
Are you stressed out about being stressed yet?
How to beat stress and stay cool, calm and collected
- Meditate. It doesn’t have to be for long and you don’t have to be in an Indian ashram to do it. Start with just a couple of minutes each day, sitting in silence, focusing on your breath. Count your breaths if it helps.
- Positive affirmations. My favourite for when I am feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list is this: “There is plenty of time in the day to get things done”. Repeat over and over in your mind. Trust me, it helps.
- Deep belly breathing. Breathe deep into your belly, allowing it to rise, for a count of 5. Hold for 1, then release and breathe out slowly for 5. Do this first thing in the morning and any time you feel “twitchy”.
- Orgasm. Seriously! Why? Well, why not? I don’t think you really need convincing on this one, but having an orgasm will actually dampen your stress hormones. And it’s fun. Hugging has a similar effect. Free hugs, anyone?
- Sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours each night, in a dark room. Keep electronic equipment out of your room as it can interfere with your sleep.
- Avoid “stressful” foods. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined/processed foods. Choose whole, fresh foods.
- Exercise, but not too much. High intensity exercise can add to the stress on your body. When life is hectic, opt for yoga over treadmill marathons.
So there you have it gorgeous ladies. Seven strategies to squash stress. You don’t have to do them all at once. Try one at a time. See what works for you, and remember, life’s too short to not feel and look bloody amazing! So get out there and strut your stress-free stuff, you saucy minx!