Are You Stressed?
Check how many of the following signs and symptoms apply to you:
1. Sleeplessness (difficulty getting to sleep at night, or waking in the early hours)
3. Difficulty making decisions
4. Lack of energy and aching muscles
5. Feeling threatened by life’s demands and other people
6. Digestive disorders, nausea, “butterflies” in the tummy
7. Pounding heart or palpitations
8. Excessive sweating or feeling shivery; dry mouth and throat
10. Impaired memory and forgetfulness
11. Drinking more alcohol/smoking more, or using caffeine to keep going
12. Eating more or less than usual
13. Tearfulness and feeling unable to cope, even with things that used to feel easy
If you ticked three or more, you may be suffering from too much stress. These symptoms are warnings that you need to reassess the areas of your life that are producing it. Read on to see how you could learn to cope better.
Seven Ways To Gain Some Perspective
1. Ask yourself, “Can I change anything?” If yes, set about changing whatever you can, as it’ll make you feel empowered. If no, ask yourself, “Can I accept the situation?” When you decide to accept something, you stop using energy to resist it and start to relax. Then new solutions may reveal themselves. If you’re finding something hard to let go of, try to visualise putting it in a wooden box, closing the lid, and locking it.
2. Feed your senses with beautiful sights and sounds. Walk through parks, take the time to stare at magnificent buildings, or visit art galleries. “We become that which we behold,” as artist William Blake stated.
3. When nothing seems to be working out, remind yourself that most things change with time. If you can relax and go with the flow, things may resolve themselves when the time is right.
4. Enhance your environment with flowers, candles, low lighting, or calming incense. It’ll help you relax.
5. Listen to some happy music. Music has an extraordinary power to change our mind and banish gloomy thoughts.
6. Distract yourself with a comedy DVD or humorous book. Encourage yourself to see the funny side of things.
7. Try never to take your worries to bed with you; make sure you get enough sleep. A rested mind and body will produce creative solutions.
In The Moment
Mindfulness training is based on a Buddhist teaching that says there’s no other time but the present moment, and that we should try to be fully present in whatever we’re doing. This releases us from much anxiety, as there’s usually nothing worrying about “right now”—it’s our thoughts about the past and fears for the future that cause us distress. But the past can’t be changed, and there may be nothing immediate you can do to affect the future. Grasping this immense yet simple truth can relieve much tension.
Top Tips For Letting Off Steam
1. Stamp your feet loudly like a toddler having a tantrum.
2 Run up and down the stairs a few times, or go for a brisk walk around the block.
3. Start a cleaning task that you’ve been avoiding for ages, and revel in being utterly miserable. You’ll feel better once that chore is behind you.
4. Once you’ve let off steam, be sure to apply a relaxation technique to restore calm.
Improve Your Mood By Eating Right
Boost serotonin It’s regarded by many as a happiness chemical and sleep promoter, but this is an oversimplification. Serotonin affects our sleep, sexual behaviour, risk-taking, aggression, motivation, temperature regulation, exploratory behavior and eating (to name just a few). The amino acids tryptophan and 5-OH tryptophan are the building blocks for serotonin. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid (meaning our body can’t produce it but obtains it from foods), is abundant in the following:
• Bananas • Cheese • Eggs • Fish • Meat (both red and lean) • Milk • Nuts (all kinds) • Peas • Potatoes • Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds • Rice (both white and brown) • Soya beans and tofu • Spinach • Spirulina • Wheat flour • Yogurt
Cut down on sugar In the stress response, the body releases extra glucose from the liver, so it needs to take less in. Despite this, when under pressure, we crave sugary foods! Although they’ll give you an initial “high”, it’ll shortly be followed by a grumpy “low”. Fight the urge for sugar and you’ll enjoy more stable moods.
Make a cup of green tea A Japanese study has found that drinking five cups of green tea daily, compared with only one, significantly reduced psychological stress. It’s thought that the polyphenols in the drink reduce the damaging effects of stress on the brain while stimulating the release of calming chemicals in the body
Keep your starch intake steady If you go without food for many hours your blood sugar drops, and this is thought to contribute to panic attacks; the body releases adrenalin to keep its systems going, and this excess causes shakiness and panic-attack symptoms. If you suffer from them, eat something (preferably starchy) every three to four hours to keep your blood sugar steady. Eating carbohydrates at frequent intervals also helps with PMT, reducing weepiness, aggression and mood swings.
Stay Calm Stay Healthy is now available from all good bookshops, priced at £12.99
The full article is in December’s Reader’s Digest, Out now.