Stress and Your Lifestyle

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Stress can be avoided by strengthening resilience says Carole Spiers

Life should be exciting and pleasurable.  How many times have you said that to yourself?  Perhaps as you have waited in a traffic jam or opened all those bills and invoices for last month’s purchases!  

However, for life to be enjoyable we all need to be able to manage the challenges that we face.  Unfortunately, there will be times when we feel we cannot cope, and it is then that we may experience stress. But experiencing signs of stress does not mean you are a weak individual who cannot cope – it just means you are human like everyone else!  We all react differently to the situations we have to face because we are all unique individuals.  Some of us may be passive personalities whilst others may be very competitive and our reaction to pressure, and especially excess pressure, will vary enormously. And dependent on our reaction, will be the state of our wellbeing and health.

Life in the 21st century is very different to that of only a few years ago and perhaps it would be useful to look at how we can improve our stress levels during the coming year.

Some of the most common signs of stress are:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Skin problems
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle tension
  • Poor concentration/memory
  • Waking unrefreshed
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Low self esteem
  • Digestive problems

It is very important to take positive action when faced with stress as, if experienced over a prolonged period of time, it can seriously damage mental and physical health.

The following proven coping strategies can really start to help reduce the effects of any stress in your life:

Be self-aware of your own warning signs

This could be a sudden feeling of anxiety, extreme tiredness or feeling very tearful.

Review what is really causing your stress

Think about what action you could take to change things.  Examine whether your expectations of yourself, and others, are realistic?

Always try to eat a balanced diet

At times of stress, we often fall into the trap of either not eating sufficiently or over-eating, or even smoking.

  • Eat complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and pasta, rather than biscuits or chocolate! Remember, what you eat influences mood.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and keep sugar and salt intake to a minimum.  This will help to support your immune system in its fight against colds and flu.
  • Drink plenty of water, it helps general health as it rehydrates your body.
  • Try and keep coffee and all caffeine consumption to a minimum and avoid using nicotine or any other self-prescribed drugs.

Do not feel guilty about including a period of relaxation every day

We all need to ‘switch off’ from time-to-time.  Do something you enjoy that complements your life-style.  This could, for example, be reading, listening to music, yoga or meditation, enjoying a warm bath with aromatherapy oils added. Remember – to be comfortable both inside and out, is a vital part of living successfully!

Make sure that regular exercise is part of your everyday life

Choose an exercise that you like, or you won’t stick to it!  If you have any doubts as to the correct intensity or duration, then always check with your doctor before starting a new regime.

Learn how to be more assertive and manage your time properly

Do you often find yourself saying “Yes!” when in fact you mean “No!”?  Are you always late for appointments?  Do you get frustrated knowing you could have done a better job if only you had organised your time better? Many of us waste a lot of the day, then make excuses for things we have not done! 

Consider attending a stress management training course

You do not have to be stressed to attend one of these.  It is far better to know what to do prior to experiencing stress than waiting until it happens!

In order to get the most out of life, it is important for all of us to try to maintain a balance between stimulation and relaxation, exercise and rest, responsibility and freedom, work and play, laughter and tears.  This is not easy, but there is a wide range of proactive interventions that we can implement in order to improve the balance in our lives.

The secret to managing stress is learning how to control your personal environment, and the pressures within it, by strengthening all your resources of energy and utilising your time efficiently.

Key Points

  • Stress can be avoided by strengthening resilience
  • It is about taking back control of our lives
  • Being fit and healthy is the best starting point
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About Author

Carole Spiers

Carole Spiers has spent 25 years as CEO of a UK stress management consultancy, working with equal success both in the UK and the Gulf. She is an acknowledged authority on corporate stress, a BBC guest broadcaster, an international motivational speaker and is regularly called by the press for comment. Carole is a Fellow and past President of the London Chapter of the Professional Speaking Association, Chair of ISMA and Founder of International Stress Awareness Week. Carole is also the author of a new book, Show Stress Who’s Boss!

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