Managing Stress: What You Need To Know

by / Wednesday, 18 May 2016 / Published in Lifestyle

Author: Kyle Hauptfleisch

Stress. A familiar word, sometimes even used with pride. Like being busy, our generation seems to look down on those who are not stressed enough. It’s almost as if it indicates a lack of work ethic, low goals or even that you’re not taking life seriously enough. It’s silly.

With all the goings on of the 21st century, it is no wonder that stress is so prevalent. We never turn off. Work days have gone from “nine to five” to from “charge to charge” and being constantly reachable is bound to have an impact on stress levels. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the stress. You’re not going to get rid of it either; chucking your phone into the ocean – if you’re fortunate enough to be near one – probably isn’t going to happen and being reachable is to ensure your mum doesn’t call for DEFCON 5 every time her call goes unanswered.

I feel like this is a good spot to point out that I am not a health professional and this article is merely based on personal experience and my own research. I am in a very stressful industry, however, and have found a couple hacks to ease the impending doom.

Diet

You are what you eat. Have you given that cliché some thought? Most cells in the body only live for a couple of weeks (although red blood cells can last up to 120 days) and scientists believe that the entire skeleton is replaced over a period of ten years. Point being: the body is constantly replacing itself – and with the stuff you put in it. Would you rather have your guns and buns made out of cheap fast-food or nutrient rich goodness?

The body can only work efficiently with up to 3 teaspoons of sugar in it. The average South African has about 15 teaspoons a day – that is almost 5 a meal on average. A healthy person takes about 2 hours to rid their system of sugar. That means for 6 hours a day you are susceptible to being attacked by the bug that’s got your co-worker down. Fast food has more sugar in it than you would care to know.

Besides, who has ever felt great after a week of binge eating happy meals?

Exercise

A no-brainer. Getting out on the promenade or into a gym after a long day at the office is always a pleasure. Besides the fact that it’s good to have a change in environment, you will have to forget about work for a little for fear of running into someone or dropping a weight on that small toe of yours – a little break from the day’s woes.

Exercise also elevates the mood, improves self-esteem, enhances brain power and fights fatigue – all contributors to stress in the first place. In fact, studies suggest that (for some) regular exercise is as effective as medication in fighting the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Also, it just feels good – shout out to those endorphins.

Lastly, exercise improves sleep…which brings me to my next point:

Sleep

Get enough of it. The goal is to be able to wake up before your alarm clock. It varies from person to person but, according to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults need between 7 and 9 hours. Not 5…or 12 for that matter.

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21% of adults report feeling more stressed if they don’t get enough sleep. It makes sense, sleeping rests the body – that vehicle you’re continuously driving – and conducts repairs. Sleep also consolidates memories, regulates hormones and culls the grumps you get when you haven’t had enough.

Meditation

Let’s not get too cosmic here. I am not suggesting that you need to sit for hours in some obscure position repeating ancient chanting sounds, but there are documented benefits to being still. In fact, the benefits (and backed by science I’ll add) are many, for example:

  • Boosts immune system;
  • Pain management;
  • Decreases inflammation;
  • Increases the good feels;
  • Decreases the not so good feels;
  • Decreases stress;
  • Improves emotional intelligence;
  • Improves capacity for compassion;
  • Improves self-awareness;
  • Increases grey matter;
  • Improves attention (by physically increasing cortical thickness);
  • Improves focus and attention;
  • Boosts multitask ability;
  • Improves memory; and
  • Improves creativity.

Sound too good to be true? Here is a list with links to scientific journals backing each point and, in some cases, more than one. Can’t sit for longer than 5 minutes before wanting to kick trees down? There are a range of activities that can have similar benefits. Anything that gets your mind relaxed will do; from colouring in to going for a walk. There is still much to be learned about the brain and meditation but one thing is clear: it’s good for stress management.

We are never going to be rid of the stress our imaginations and environments conjure up, but we can manage it. Each recommendation will remove a little bit of the pressure and, in combination, will make a mole hill of a mountain.

In the words of our good friend Mark Twain: “I have had many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/

http://www.stress.org.uk/Diet-and-nutrition.aspx

http://sajcn.co.za/index.php/SAJCN/article/view/752

http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm

The hidden sugar in South African fast food

About the author:
Kyle is the sales director at Dash of Lime (Primedia Online). He is passionate about humans, digital and any food that is not marzipan. He is also an avid believer in a selling process that is ‘value centric’. Rule of thumb: make or sell things (products, services, paradigms etc.) that solve problems; that way selling is easy, ethical and not conducive to banging heads against walls.
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