Stress is something that most people experience to varying degrees. It’s part of being human and it’s also part of what keeps us safe.
However, the relentless output of stress hormones is strongly linked to a host of health challenges, so rather than trying to avoid stress altogether, as this will be almost impossible, you want to instead work on deciphering what stress really is for you, as well as take steps to decrease the intensity of your stress response. This will help your stress responses to be less relentless and give your body more calm breathing space.
Here are some suggestions.
I know you might not want to hear it, but caffeine has an almost immediate effect on your stress response. Once in the body, caffeine blocks the receptors in the brain that help to slow down our nervous system, so they can’t work effectively, and it also activates the stress axis, sending a signal to the adrenals to make adrenaline.
When you’re in a state of stress, your body produces more free radicals because you tend to breathe more rapidly when adrenaline is elevated. Antioxidants nullify the harmful effects of these free radicals. Increase your intake of antioxidants from whole, real plant foods with a wide variety of colours.
The thoughts you think are directly correlated to the amount of stress you feel. Explore your perceptions around pressure and what you believe is urgent. For example, if a car pulls out in front of you, it is urgent for you to slam on your brakes. If you receive 100 new emails overnight, you may feel that all of them are urgent, when in reality maybe 10 need your attention quite quickly. Both of these examples can induce the same stress response in your body when you perceive them as urgent, even though the latter example really sits lower on a scale of urgency.
When you look at your to-do list, remember how privileged your life is because all your basic needs are met and still for too many people in the world, this is not the case. It can help to remember that you ‘get’ to do all of this, rather than you ‘have’ to. We are, after all, busy with what we say yes to.
If you feel that stress (I’m not referring to trauma in this instance) is really an ongoing issue for you, then I urge you to consider this. Whatever you are stressed about—anything at all—is usually what you are frightened of. Peel back the layers on what you perceive are your stresses—running late, for example—and see what’s really there. See what you are actually afraid of. Of being seen as a failure or lazy, of people not liking you, of letting others down… For most people, when they peel it all back, their fear is that they are not loved, or that there will be a loss of love. Everything—and I mean everything—comes back to avoiding rejection and obtaining or maintaining love. I don’t know how else to say it. People think the opposite of stressed is relaxed or calm. I say it is trust.