There are stresses in each and everyone of our lives that can creep on us. This year, it most likely been heightened by the ongoing pandemic affecting the world.
Whether it’s in anticipation of a deadline while working from home, repetitive stress caused by one bad news after another or even the type that feels like it will never go away, it’s fundamental to consider the effects that stress can have on your long-term health, including your heart.
How does stress affect me?
When we face a stressful event, our nervous system is activated and releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, these hormones increase our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, metabolism and muscle tension.
The effect of putting our bodies on constant alert means we can become frazzled and worn out over time, and it can also have other detrimental effects such as weakening our immune system. Juggling multiple tasks and having a mind-set of “just push through this” can lead us to feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep well or turning to “fixes” such as alcohol, smoking and caffeine.
Ways to Combat Stress
- Set boundaries: isolating at home? Setting boundaries could be as easy as having separate areas for work, for sleep and for relaxation. Rituals such as shutting down your computer and switching your phone to sleep mode during sleep can help separate your responsibilities.
- Make time for exercise: prioritise you, and aim for 20-30 mins a day of exercise. Walk in nature when you can, try to stand when you speak on the phone, or sign up to one of the many available yoga or strength training courses online.
- Meditate: there is a lot of research available now around the power and benefits of meditation and incorporating a short mindfulness practice during the day allows you to switch off and mentally recharge your batteries. There are many apps available to help you meditate, or there are ways to be more mindful such as during your daily walk, taking time to read, or even doing chores like cooking with no TV to distract you.
- Look at your diet: you cannot expect to have long days, juggling multiple work and/or family commitments if you are not eating the right food. Start your day right with a hearty breakfast, snack on some roasted almonds for some Vitamin E and Calcium, eat good fats such as avocado and ensure you are having enough vitamin C from fresh fruit and veggies.
- Get more sleep: it is not enough to exist on 5-6 hours when it should be nearer 7 to 8 hours. Go to bed earlier and reset your body clock, ensure you have a dim room with good blockout curtains. Reduce technology an hour before bed as the LED (blue) light affects the sleep hormone melatonin which can keep you awake.