How to handle stress and overwhelm
Lets be honest. People are stressed! Our modern day lives have become fast paced, highly stressful and overwhelming. We have all felt stressed at one point, or have been so overwhelmed we don’t know what to do!!
Stress is becoming all to common nowadays which does a host of negatives things to the body, essentially breaking it down. I feel stress shouldn't be so prevalent in modern day life, which is why I’m wiring this blog. By the end of this blog you will know what stress is, how it effects the body, and I’ll provide some strategies you can implement anytime you feel stressed, or overwhelm starts to take over.
What is stress?
Stress is the bodies way to respond to danger or a threat. Stress can come in many forms such as mental, physical and environmental as well as many others. When the body feels under threat the autonomic nervous system cranks up the fight or flight response. This is the bodies natural response and was very effective at ensuring our survival as a specifies. When we were under threat we would access the situation and decide to stay and fight or run away. We’re not exposed to many life threaten situations today, but there are potentially enormous amounts of stress that we encounter on a daily basis. Things like traffic, the commute to work, bills, intense training, relationships and social/emotional stresses are low levels of stress that the body still interprets as life threatening. Being in this highness state all the time increases inflammation, weakens the immune system, contributes to weight gains and causes anxiety, depression and even premature death. You might not even realise these things add up. Stack that with lack of sleep, or an intense training schedule and it’s no wonder you might not be losing body fat, feel like crap, or just completely overwhelmed.
The opposite of the fight flight system is the rest and digest response. Being in this system controls balance of bodily systems, it allows the body to relax and repair finding a state of peace and calm. There is no middle ground when it comes to these two systems, you are either in one or the other. It takes time for the brain to recognise it’s not under threat before the rest and digest system takes over facilitating recovery which is why it’s important to maintain a balance of the two.
Stress is unavoidable, but being aware of it is the firs step and knowing some scientifically tried and tested strategies will help tap into the rest and digest system when daily stress and overwhelm takes hold.
I had to start with the most obvious one.
Studies show regular meditation reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and inflammation in the body. Meditation releases feel good hormones and helps regulate how things impact you.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s a case of sitting down, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.
Find a quiet place.
Close your eyes and breath through your nose.
Watch your breath, focusing on the inhales and exhales.
Thoughts will come and go (which is normal) just keep bringing our attention back
on the breath.
Start with 5 minutes, and aim for 5-15 minutes a day. Meditate first thing in the morning, or when you feel overwhelmed. Headspace and Calm are two popular apps that provided guided meditations and can be a great place to start.
We breath on average 20,000 times a day and most are only using the top of their lungs to breath. This is the smallest part of the lungs and a very inefficient way to breath. Breathing 20,000 times into the highest point of the chest contributes to tight, neck, shoulders and creates anxious breath. It’s important to use the diaphragm to breath, this is the dome shaped muscle at the bottom of the ribcage. This fills the bottom, the biggest most dense part of the lungs and takes the majority of breath away from the top. Breathing using the diaphragm instantly calms the nervous system, lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
Box breathing is a technique of taking breaths for different count cycles. It is a powerful stress reliever and an efficient way to calm the nervous system.
How to box breath?
Inhale for 4 seconds
hold the top of the breath for 4 seconds
exhale for 6 seconds
hold the bottom of the exhale for 2 seconds
Repeat this cycle anywhere from 5-10 minutes or until you feel a sense of peace
I recommend doing this anytime you feel stressed, or want to regain focus. Find a quiet place, sitting upright with eyes closed, use your diaphragm to breath using these counts until you feel the sense of calm come over you. It’s also great after intense exercise to help speed the recovery processes after a hard session.
Even by simply breathing through your nose filters the air around you and brings you straight into the rest and digest response.
Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Regular exercise has been shown to ease depression, and is more effective than anti depressant drugs as the effects last much longer. This is because synthetic drugs mimic the bodies natural response and down regulates hormone production which only masks the issue. Exercise releases endorphins that is naturally produced by the body, and studies show these effects last much longer than drugs. This was done on a study where participants walked for 35 minutes 5 times a week or 1 hour three times a week. The bottom line is exercise works!!
Most people think there needs to be something wrong in order to go to therapy. Therapy is so beneficial for EVERYONE if you’re going through some shit or not. Therapy makes you more aware of how you interact with the world, and helps you understand your mindset and the thinking patterns you fall into due to child hood and past experiences. I go to Psychoanalysis and can honest say has been one of the best investments I’ve made in myself. Find a therapist near you, or contact the the Institute of Psychoanalysis from the link.
Journalling is powerful as it helps you reflect and gain perspective on what’s going on in your life. I do something called Positive Focus where I take a bad situation, find the positive and write a lesson learned. This is great as it helps shift your mindset into something positive, as there is something to learn from each situation life presents. Like going to the gym, it is important to exercise this pattern. Doing this everyday and overtime it becomes more natural, you’ll always look on what was positive about it, what you learned which you can use to change. Instead of worrying or fretting about something write it out, even if it makes no sense, I guarantee you’ll feel a burden lifted if you write things out.
There are many ways to counteract stress and overwhelm. These are the most profound, or have had the biggest effect in my life. Here is a list of a few more
brain dump - before bed write out everything that’s on your mind, no matter how big or small, you’ll be able to sleep better knowing all that stuff is on paper waiting for you in the morning.
morning routine - journaling, meditation, exercise or walking can all be part of a morning routine. Having a morning routine allows you to look after yourself before the day has started. You will be in a much better frame of mind knowing you have taken time to focus on you and your own goals for the day.
schedule time for yourself - having something to look forward to will keep you happy. Taking time out to do something you enjoy allows you to switch off from everyday life, big ideas come and perspective shifts. I recommend doing this on a weekly basis.
smile and hug - smiling instantly releases feel good hormones. Hugging releases oxytocin also know as the love hormone which reduces stress and promotes immunity and healing.
I heard someone say stress is our outer world, not matching our inner world. Which makes sense! We all want things to go our way, but sometimes that’s not the case.
Knowing what you can and can’t control in a stressful situation can be hugely impactful as well. Sometimes people stress over the things they can’t control, instead realise what you can control and do what’s in your power in every situation. You’ll feel much better. I take stress management in account with all of my clients and is a huge part of the coaching process with me, as it honestly has such an impact on results. If you would like to know more, or are interested in a programme specific for you then get hold of me.