It is inevitable, to a degree that you will go through stressful periods in your life. With uncertainty in the country after a tricky couple of years, many people are feeling stressed and anxious right now.
Stress has such a profound effect on your ability to stay fit and healthy. So, to help you along in your life and to keep you in shape, we have put together some advice with a little help from our friend, Dr Katherine Preedy.
Identify Patterns: We’ve all felt stress at some point in our lives. I’m sure you’ll recognise at least some of the possible symptoms such as racing heart, preoccupying thoughts, churning stomach, sweating, appetite changes, headaches and muscle tension. At a lower level sometimes that tension is a helpful physical stimulus acting as a motivator to make some kind of change. For example, if I feel stressed about a work deadline it pushes me to work harder and achieve my aim. Without any stress at all I would have no internal drive to push myself. However, when a person is under too many accumulative small stressors, or a single extreme stressor, they may find that the symptoms actually prevent them from being able to resolve the situation. This is when stress can become problematic. There are lots of different strategies for attempting to manage stress but the key to all of them is recognising that you are stressed and trying to identify what that looks like for you. Knowing your own personal warning signs are crucial. Try to think about some of the ways that stress affects you personally? What are your physical symptoms? Do you over or under-eat? Do you find you can’t sleep or wake ruminating on an issue? Do you get irritable or withdraw into yourself? What kind of thinking patterns do you notice? How do you act differently? What do you do more or less of? Once you’ve recognised your own personal stress signature you can start to intervene at an earlier stage and address each of these areas in isolation.
Start To Make Changes: It is impossible to be both physically stressed and relaxed at the same time. This is a fairly obvious statement but it gives a crucial indicator as to the best starting point for reducing stress in any given moment. When we are stressed our breathing is often rapid and shallow. Try to slow your breathing and take deep breaths. Most importantly ensure you exhale fully. When we breathe rapidly our lungs get filled with too much oxygen and this can cause many of the other unpleasant physical symptoms of stress. Changing your breathing pattern can be a very effective and rapid way of coping in the moment. Then move your attention to the places in your body that feel physically tense and try to move your limbs or muscles to allow them to release slightly. One way of attempting this is to visualise breathing out through the tense body part, or to engage in some physical activity. There are many online resources to talk you through these strategies in more detail.
In addition to this, if the amount of time in the day that you feel stressed has increased then you need to increase the number of relaxing activities you engage in to counterbalance this. Think what helps you to relax, whether it is talking to people, exercising, taking a bath, walking, being outdoors, reading, etc and schedule in as many of these different activities each day as you can as well as keeping a healthy diet. Don’t expect any one activity to be a miracle cure but hopefully the cumulative effect will help counteract the impact of the stress.
Change Your Thought Patterns: For many of the different ways that you might find yourself affected by stress, current psychological theory would suggest that tackling your thoughts is another pretty effective strategy. One idea might be to list all the individual worries or stresses that you have, writing them down physically can often help to offer some clarity about the causes and can allow you to prioritise the order in which to tackle the issues.
A cognitive behavioural therapy approach to managing stress would also suggest that our bodies respond physically to thoughts as though they are facts. For example, if you’re hungry and start to think of your favourite food you’ll salivate. In the same way if you have any “worst case scenario” thoughts your body will respond with a higher level of physical reaction than might be needed. Try to notice if your thoughts are balanced, or as is often common when feeling stressed, if some of the automatic thoughts that pop into your head are overly negative. Try thinking of a moment when you were especially stressed and then record all the negative thoughts that pop into your mind. Once you’ve written them down the evidence suggests that if you can evaluate them from a non-biased perspective, or get someone to help you to do this, then you might be able to reduce some of the emotional distress. There are lots of books or online resources that can help you with this or other CBT techniques if this seems like it might be helpful for you. We have also included a couple of useful links below:
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like more help with your health, fitness and mindset, contact us at David Jones Personal Training or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. If you feel that you require more help with your psychology, contact Preedy Psychology Ltd on 07949 549989 or email email@example.com.