Clear Your Mind of Stress
Content first published for www.hayyahealth.com
Did you know April is National Stress Awareness Month?
As Hayya Health’s philosophy is rooted in empowering people with both internal and external happiness, managing stress and finding solutions to ease ourselves from it is incredibly important to us. From everyday stresses that can creep up on all of us to larger build-ups of stress, we all may need coping mechanisms for stress at some point in our lives. As the Mental Health Foundation's 2018 study reported, 74% of people felt so stressed that year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. This high percentage is indicative, therefore, of just how important this awareness month is for helping people address both the emotional and physical effects of stress throughout their lives.
‘Fight or flight’ - our bodies have an instinctive and intense physical response to stress that releases a combination of hormones within us (including adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine) that allow our muscles to act physically and quickly. This boost of energy and focus on our muscles can be useful in many situations when we do actually need a physical response to a situation, such as avoiding danger. However, these reactions can occur in other scenarios, when we are at work or high-pressurised situations, when we want to avoid physical changes in our bodies and when we still want full-function of our brains. From physical reactions, including chest pains, increased heartbeats, high blood pressure; to cognitive changes that influence our concentration, memory, judgement, clarity and focus; to emotional changes, such as mood swings, irritability and overwhelming feelings of anxiety, panic and frustration - the impact of stress on our internal and external body functioning can be as varied as it is debilitating.
Eliminating stress from our lives entirely is near-impossible, but there are ways to ease its impact upon us. We can balance out our physical and emotional responses in simple ways. So let us guide you through some methods to clear your mind of stress this month and throughout the year. As Hayya Health likes to promote, so often it all comes back to balance.
The first steps to conquering overwhelming feelings of stress is taking control of your mindset and approach to stress. If you are feeling stressed, force yourself to take a step back, however challenging that may seem, and take the deepest breath you possibly can. Fill your lungs with as much oxygen as possible. Channel your focus into breathing through your nose and out through your mouth as gently and regularly as you can. Try counting to 5 and then let your breath flow out, again counting to 5 if you can. Don’t focus on anything else but breathing. Then, once you have a handle of your breath, smile! You might be feeling terrible inside, but even if you have a fake smile it has the power to make you feel better both mentally and physically. Using 53 muscles, it is biologically harder for your face to frown in contrast to smiling that uses just 5! Not only does the process of smiling relax your body, and in turn contribute to a stronger immune system, it also (in our opinion) attracts more positivity back to you and helps you channel a more positive mindset. Now you should have the ability to harness more inner strength, assess the stressful situation with greater clarity, and respond that bit more efficiently.
Regular physical activity is really important for combatting stress. Now, not everybody is going to be a fan of pumping iron in the gym, but there are many other ways to get moving and releasing key endorphins. Yoga and pilates are ideal for building strength and increasing flexibility, with the added bonus of allowing you to connect to the present moment and practise mindful breathing. Swimming is also great for working every muscle in your body and allowing you to completely immerse your mind and body into exercising. For something a little more punchy, you could give boxing a go. It’s a perfect go-to for a high energy workout that is guaranteed to get your heart rate up, while engaging your brain with the different sequences. It’s also important to not forget the benefits of simply walking, especially if you can get fresh air at the same time. Exercising outside has a whole host of benefits, boosting your immune system, and exposing you to more sunshine for Vitamin D that helps conquer SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). All it takes is 10 minutes of exercise to release GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that helps to reduce stress. When you exercise, you therefore help your body physically, while also allowing your mind to focus on the task at hand, and as a result cleanse your thought-process from stresses.
A healthy, balanced diet, is integral to boosting our wellbeing and in turn combatting stress. Regular meals that cover all food groups are key to achieving an optimum diet and are an integral part of our energy and motivation, and as a result our happiness. However, at Hayya Health, we see everybody as an individual with different nutritional needs. Take proteins and vitamins, for example, which may vary for different people depending on their work-life balance, age, and physical health. However conscious we are of the foods that we eat, sometimes it’s difficult to know what really is best for us, as unique individuals. Tailoring nutritional plans that meet the demands of your lifestyle are key to making sure you always perform at your best, minimising stress levels and boosting happiness instead. (To see more about my nutritional plans please click here.) If you’re confident with your diet, but are looking for something that will help bring you more inner balance, then I would recommend Ringana’s CAPS moodoo. This helpful pot of 90 capsules contains a supplement with natural ingredients that will help you combat fatigue and tiredness, with a calming effect that helps you alleviate stress. While the Vitamin B1, B6, B12, folic acid and niacin contained in buckwheat germ powder help to preserve normal mental and nervous system function, even in stressful situations, the combination of niacin and riboflavin counteract exhaustion and fatigue. Calcium from alga powder regulates nerve function and helps signal transmission between the nerve cells and extract from the ashwagandha root promote physical and mental relaxation processes and helps us to calm down. While there are many elements to our diets that help ease our stress, and no quick fix, this is a helpful way of ensuring you are receiving those important vitamins and bringing a sense of balance to your body.
Our hectic lifestyles, tireless work schedules and relationships with stress, all have the power to impact upon our sleep. Not only is sleep a necessity for maintaining energy levels, it is also a key component to controlling our weight, hunger levels, immunity, memory and brain focus. Sleep patterns and lengths can vary, but we must all try our best to achieve the highest quality sleep we can in order to give these crucial body-functions the best chance they have. While we sleep, we activate our Human Growth Hormone, which helps to build leaner muscle tissue. And so, if we are depriving ourselves of sleep, we elevate our cortisol levels (which turns the proteins in our bodies into glucose and release feelings of stress) and increase our ghrelin levels that control our body’s hunger hormone and have us reaching for sugary snacks the next day. If you are struggling to sleep properly and need to re-set your cycle, take a look at your caffeine intake and give yourself a curfew so it is out of your system by the time you go to bed, make sure you are eating well with a high intake of potassium and magnesium, exercise, and switch off from your digital world as early as you can to give your eyes a rest from the blue light. We need sleep to rest physically and mentally, heal, and bring balance back to us, all of which build a protective barrier around us to fight off stress.
How guilty are you of saying yes to everything? It’s so easy to tie ourselves up in knots committing to everything we can and overburdening our schedules, to the point that we have too much to deal with and don’t even know where to begin or when to take a breath. As a final thought on clearing your mind of stress, make sure you balance your commitments. Prioritise. We all have those commitments we might not enjoy but can’t escape, so work out your limits and don’t allow them to entirely rule your life. On the flip side, work out what it is that makes you truly happy and make sure you schedule in time for yourself, time for self-care, and time to switch off. Balance.
Having techniques to clear your mind of stress is a life-necessity. It may have been National Stress Awareness Month this April, but this is a topic we need to explore all-year round. How do you combat stress? We want to bring self-care and tackling stress into everyday conversation. We trust in balance, and as individuals - recognising each and every one of us as an individual - hope we can bring more balance to Hayya Health as a community.