Life hacks for stress management


April 22, 2016

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Being mentally and physically fit is very important; it allows you to be more resilient and can prevent the onset of potential health issues.

Stress isn't something that we often associate with having serious consequences within our lives. However, researchers have repeatedly indicated that stress does have an impact on our physical and mental health.

Every year around one in five Australians will experience a mental illness with anxiety, in particular, on the rise. Poor mental and physical health has other consequences, including a potentially shortened lifespan, a lower quality of life, unhappy relationships and even difficulties at work.

MetLife along with its partners from the Blackdog Institute and SuperFriends is focused on investing in Australian workplaces to build employee resilience which in turn improves the overall mental and physical health of employees and creates a happier and more productive workforce.

If you desire a quick and easy way to help you deal with the stress of everyday life continue reading below.

HOW TO REALISE STRESS SYMPTOMS

"Many people are caught off guard," says the co-founder of the Neighbourhood Psychiatric Associates of Manhattan, Grant Brenner. "They don't know they are getting stressed out and wait until they are already experiencing burnout and have serious issues."

Brenner says that awareness and prevention of stress symptoms are the keys to beating stress in the long-term and a healthy living. He recommends learning to pay attention to your body's responses and your state of mind so that you know when a stress response is rising. One needs to realise when feeling overwhelmed, paralysed by decision-making or having a rising heart. A ‘flight or fight’ response is a clue that your stress levels are becoming too high. Difficulty breathing and thinking can also be signs of an anxiety attack. You'll be better able to counteract it if you recognise the situation and respond before it gets out of hand.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH

Brenner says that healthy eating and regular physical exercise are vital parts of easing stress. When we feel good, we are better able to cope with stressful situations. Any physical activity, from walking to strength training to vigorous exercise to playing outside with your kids can be useful in stress relief. Healthy eating, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as moderate amounts of lean protein, can contribute to feelings of health and wellness.

WHY SLEEP IS SO IMPORTANT

Even those who exercise and practice good nutrition often miss an important part of the equation. "Most people overlook the importance of sleep," Brenner points out. "Every day we see more information about how important good sleep is." Sleep helps our minds sort through the information of the day and sets the stage for better decision-making. It also allows your body to rest and prepare physically. Tiredness makes it harder to cope with challenging situations, and therefore increases stress level.

Carve out time for adequate sleep so that your body and mind have time to reset. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. It also helps to avoid computers with ‘blue light’ before bed, since this type of light can stimulate your brain and make it difficult to fall asleep.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR MIND WITHIN 5 MIN

Brenner points to the benefits of meditation as a useful tool in reducing stress on a regular basis. "Mindfulness meditation gets a lot of attention, and for good reason," he says. Mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to focus on the present moment, recognising what they feel and think about. "Research shows it helps people take a step back and assess the situation without getting anxious," continues Brenner.

Daily meditation practice, even if it is only a few minutes at a time, can help you maintain perspective and reduce stress. Develop a habit of mindfulness, and Brenner says you will be better at knowing when stress is presenting a problem — and better at tackling that problem.

Yoga can also help. Not only is it exercise, but it can also promote a meditative state. Brenner recommends using the slower, gentler hatha yoga to promote mindfulness while moving, as well as pranayama breathing exercises to reduce stress.

LIFE HACKS FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT

If you find yourself in a stressful situation, Brenner has a few quick tips for beating stress in the moment:

  • Take a few deep breaths and avoid hyperventilating.
  • Go for a walk and let the outdoors soothe you.
  • Engage with your pet since petting an animal can be calming.
  • Sit with someone; touch can relieve stress.
  • Look for a distraction. Reading a book you enjoy or focusing on a different issue for a few minutes can take your mind away from stress.

Whether a stressful day in the office or a traffic jam, there are always reasons to get stressed. Regular practice can however help you beat stress and live a happier and healthier life.