What is stress and how can we manage it effectively?
Stress is defined as the body’s natural defence mechanism when faced with a lot of external pressure. Moderate levels of stress are beneficial, as it acts as a motivator for completing everyday tasks on time. However, when multiple stressors (sources of stress) accumulate, it becomes even more difficult to function on a mental and physical level.
Being bombarded with energy-consuming tasks often leaves us feeling drained and unable to concentrate on what is important. As a result, we need to redefine what it means to be productive. The maximum workload someone can handle varies depending on the person, these differences in capability must be acknowledged in order to better understand the causes and effects of stress.
Over a prolonged time period, internal stress eventually manifests itself into physical changes as well as behavioural changes. In order to manage and prevent the development of stress as it exists today, we must make small yet significant changes to our lifestyles.
- Sleep; As a culture we have begun to idealise sleeping less and achieving more, however, sleep is vital for functioning optimally. By reducing the amount of time spent sleeping, we are also inadvertently reducing our mind’s capacity to make conscious decisions during the day. Listen to calming music an hour beforehand in order to overcome this, therefore significantly improving the quality of your sleep.
- Breakfast; It has become common place to avoid breakfast altogether, resorting to a small snack. Despite the convenience of doing so, putting more thought into what you eat in the morning will reduce the likelihood of stress accumulating later on. Ensure that you also have water before breakfast, as it prepares the mind and body for the demands of the day.
- Movement; introducing movement into your daily routine will also alleviate stress, not to be mistaken with exercise – which is too often associated with intense physical activity. Ways to increase movement can include walking whilst on a call, cycling to work or simply completing chores more often.
A simple exercise which can be added to your morning routine is a doorframe stretch. Stand in the middle of the frame and stretch both arms towards the left and right-hand side and finally upwards. Repeating these stretches releases tension and enables posture correction.
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