lifestyle

Dodging the Stress Bullets

Recently I listened to part of Pedram Shojai’s New York Times best selling book –¬†The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace.

It was quite interesting and a good reminder to live in the moment and make the best of it.

We often think that with success comes happiness & peace and that to achieve success you need to work hard. Sounds logical, but one important thing we miss out is that stress can sabotage all three – success, happiness and peace.

And that is why he begins his book by painting a very real picture of life in the modern western world and what we can do reduce our stress levels. You can hear his insights and tips below:

 

 

And if you don’t have the time to listen to the whole podcast, here are my key takeouts from this podcast:

  • In modern times our stress response is linked to financial and employment¬†factors, i.e. we respond to work and money problems the same way we would respond to a life threatening situation such as a lion attack.
  • However, unlike animals, we humans are often unable to let go of the stresses, move on with our lives and live in the present.
  • Instead we hold on to stress and keep on reliving those stressful situations.
  • Our environment also has a huge impact on our stress levels
  • Clean diet, good sleep, full spectrum movement, quiet time and having a healthy mindset are the main components of a stress-free life.
  • We can reduce stress by taking a few important decisions:
    • Eliminate the ‘mental virus’ of need. Modern society pressures and expectations make us believe that we need to spend money on a lot of things (most of which we don’t really need).
    • Take the say ‘you are what you eat’ to the next level. Just as we need to choose carefully what we put in our mouths, we need to choose carefully what we let in our environment (e.g. sometimes even watching the news can get you stressed!)
    • Learn to listen. We are constantly bombarded with data – even the wind hitting your face reflects as noise in your brain. Peace is an inside game and we need to learn to calm the chatter in our brain. If you learn to be less reactive to all this noise, you learn to be less reactive to your impulses. This leads to the point below.
    • Use meditation as a preventative tool. Don’t wait until you are stressed to do something about it. Daily meditation can help strengthen the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain which helps us stay cool under pressure and makes it easier to navigate stressful situations.
    • Remember that we are all mortal. When your life is at stake are you going to care about all the little things that are stressing you? Stress has made us forget what it feels like to be vibrantly alive, not just existing… surviving. Do something that scares you every day. There’s nothing like feeling alive to reset your stress levels.

“If the small stuff is getting you down, do greater things.”

lifestyle, Motivation

20 Ways to Beat Stress

Last week I was lucky to attend a stress management workshop by Heidi Jones, a Dubai-based integrative health & nutrition coach. Read below to find out what I have learned.

Heidi Jones

Most of us are living a busy, fast-paced life where 24 hours never seem enough. All sorts of pressures & deadlines loom over our heads, making us feel stressed out. It is important to be self-aware and to know how stress affects the body and our emotional wellbeing.

We have all heard about the fight or flight response when we are in a stressful situation – but did you know that it can cause a host of physical as well as mental symptoms? Stomach ache, indigestion, heart palpitations, jitters – these are just a few of the physical signs showing that we are stressed.

Normally, a bit of stress is good for us. Why? It helps us be more focused and do what needs to be done. Once the stressful task is complete we go back to our ‘rest & digest’ zone, where the body and mind are relaxed.

However, in today’s day & age we are more likely to be almost constantly in the ‘fight or flight’ zone as we claw through a long list of deadlines or urgent and important matters. This is certainly not good for our long-term health.

So what can you do to help yourself spend more time in the ‘rest & digest’ zone? The questionnaire below, developed by Heidi Jones, will help you assess your work-life balance by looking into which stress management strategies you use often and which ones you need to start using:

Stress Management Questionnaire

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Now that you have a list of 20 very practical and easy to apply stress management strategies, you may want to think about what is stopping you from using them in your day-to-day life.

One thing we all have in common is that we all have 24 hours in the day. People are achieving amazing things in those hours – and so can you!

“You have to be very, very clear on what it is that you want. If you know what you want, then you know you need to work towards that and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore. It feels like it is part of the journey, it’s part of the process, it’s part of you growing as a person to get to where you want to be.” – Heidi Jones

We believe that we can’t do it, we don’t have time… but these are just beliefs – they are not facts.

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So here you are: start by implementing practical strategies to relieve yourself of stress, but don’t forget to take the time out and ask yourself what you really want to achieve in life. Sometimes not knowing what we want to achieve is the biggest stress!

P.S.

If you need more help or would like to know more about how to transform your life, go to Heidi’s blog – http://www.heidijoneshealthcoach.com – where you can get in touch with her.

Motivation

You vs. Stress

We all know that stress is bad for us. There are countless articles regarding the damaging effects of stress on physical and mental health. It is clear that stress affects our longevity and quality of life, but what can we do to combat this public enemy #1?

First, it is important to recognise that there are many sources of stress on the body Рour environment (weather, noise, pollution, chemicals and toxins, etc.),  our physical activity (exercise, strain & injury), our mental and health state (emotions, thoughts, nutrition and sleep).

Therefore it can be seen that stress enters the body through multiple sources – directly through our skin, our ears and our mouth, but also indirectly through what we see, hear and think about.

thumb_IMG_0385_1024-2At first, it may seem overwhelming to deal with this constant invasion of stress, however there are little steps we can take every day to reduce the pressure we put on ourselves.
You don’t have to quit your job, sell your house and go live in a forest to offer yourself stress relief (and anyway the financial implications of such a move will probable cause more stress than anything else!). Instead, focus on creating little routines in your day to help relieve stress.

As sleep is crucial to our mental and physical health, I would recommend starting with a bedtime ritual to help you get a good night’s sleep. Once you are used to that, you can look into your daily schedule and finding time to fit in some more relaxing activities.

So, how can we use the five senses (and gateways to stress) to create a relaxing bedtime ritual? Here are my tips:

Sight

BULB-ANIMATION2-1024x576If you are like most people and work in an office, chances are that by the end of the day your eyes are tired from looking at a screen all day. So it is important to give them a break from screen glaring and squinting (due to inappropriate lighting contrasts). Make sure your bedside lamp emits and orange-yellow light as white light suppresses the production of melatonin – your body’s sleep-inducing hormone.

Of course, you should put away all screen devices and try reading something in print instead. If reading is not your thing why not try the new trending of colouring. It has been proven that colouring has similar relaxation effects to meditation by allowing us to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and focus on the moment. Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also happens to be the author of his own line of adult colouring books, conducted a study which found that colouring affects our heart rate and brainwave activity.

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If you’re really not a fan of reading or colouring, another option would be to listen rather than watch.

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Now, although you may have heard about meditation a lot of times, if you’re like me, mediation seems like some mystical power which only the shamans from some Nepalese mountain can master. And although meditation can take years of practice, there is an easy way to get started.¬†There are countless YouTube videos and other audio sources¬†which can help ease your mind through guided meditation. An alternative are podcasts – from inspirational Ted talks to educational episodes on health & fitness, there is something for everyone. I find listening to a health podcast and doing a bit of colouring simultaneously to be of great help before going to bed.

Smell

Another thing I really like to do during my bedtime routine is sprinkle my pillow with lavender oil. There are so many benefits of lavender oil, but it is most well-known for its relaxing properties. This calming scent has been proven to relax the nervous system, reduce restlessness and to protect against neurological damage. On days I have headaches I use a lavender oil mix to massage my temples and forehead which helps to ease the pain (*never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin, always use a mixing/base oil to dilute these powerful oils).

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Touch

Massaging your temples, whether with lavender oil mix or not is also a great relaxation technique. Both physical and mental stress often result in tight muscles (e.g. teeth clenching can hurt your neck & jaws). Therefore, massaging your face and even ears can be of great help to release tension. Did you know that the edges of the ears have have tiny reflex points that can relax specific areas of your body?

Of course, we are not able to give ourselves full massages, however we can relax any muscle in the body by first tensing that specific muscle and then releasing it. A good way to do this is to start from your toes, focusing your mind just on this body part, squeezing it for a few minutes before completely relaxing the muscle and letting it ‘sink into the bed’. You then move upwards to your shins & calves, all the way up to your face.

Taste

Finally the last sense through which a lot of stress comes in, but can also serve as a de-stressor is our mouth. The foods we eat can cause physical stress to the body – unhealthy foods often cause inflammation in the digestive system which is perceived by our bodies as stress. But it is not only the type of foods we eat, meal timings and portions are also important.

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If you are the type of person who can’t fall asleep when hungry or wakes up in the middle of the night starving, and you do not have any digestive problems, then you should consider having a bedtime meal. There are certain foods (and drinks)which help your body relax¬†if eaten 30-60 minutes before¬†you go to sleep. These include¬†yogurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna as they all contain good amounts of tryptophan.

“Tryptophan is used by the body to make niacin, a B vitamin that is important for digestion, skin and nerves, and serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a large role in mood) and can help to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.” – WebMD

Also if you enjoy tea, there are plenty of herbal infusions that can be very soothing. Chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm teas are just a few you can choose from.

So here you are: 5 senses – 5 steps to your bedtime relaxation ritual. Dedicate at least 30 minutes before going to bed to have a snack, read, relax your muscles and take some deep breaths inhaling the lavender oil on your pillow. Trust me, your body will thank you!

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