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How is stress impacting your health and what you can do to "stress-less"?

Hi Beautiful, Do you race through your day desperately trying to get to the finish line to only end up completely exhausted, wired and tired? Do you have stubborn weight that you just cannot shift despite your great diet and exercising? Do you sometimes forget to go to the bathroom, eat or breathe as you are too busy trying to get to end of your email list or are running from meeting to meeting? Do you get thrown “off course” and feel like you personally take a hit when a stressful situation in your life arises or someone is difficult to you? If the answer is yes to the above, you are not alone as this is the story of so many women, including myself! My natural “default” mode is to run through life at 100 miles an hour and I have had to work hard at re-training myself to slow down and relax into my days. You see life is a very long time, it is a marathon, so we need to pace ourselves to be able to last the distance without burning out and most importantly…so we can enjoy it! Many years ago I used to work in recruitment for a large global firm. This is a highly fast paced and stressful industry. I used to literally consider myself so busy, that I ate lunch at my desk, I held off going to the bathroom because I had to finish my emails and I used to work so fast that sometimes I would literally forget to breathe and go into an anxiety attack. This fast pace that I used to live my life, did not only stop at work. Outside of work, I would keep my days filled with things to do and endless to do lists that seemed never ending, however a sense of disappointment and falling short would creep in when I did not achieve everything on my list. I was always so busy doing so much and achieving so much, that I never stopped to listen to my body trying to communicate with me through stubborn weight, fatigue, disrupted sleep, acne, constant colds, flu's and allergies, bloating, disrupted bowls, anxiety, depression, mood swings, headaches and much more. I was always so busy trying to get to the finish line and achieve so much during my days that I put myself and my health last. I thought I would be fine, as this was what everyone else was doing right? The purpose of life was to “do”, “achieve” and be “liked” by everyone right... I was wrong! It was only when I was forced to stop by becoming completely bedridden did I realise that without my health, I was unable to do anything else in life. Without my health, life could not be lived and that “health is the real wealth.” Living my life at 100 miles an hour ensured I was constantly under stress (physically, mentally and emotionally) which ultimately led to my demise. You see stress is a silent killer and for women in today’s world, we feel the need to be superwoman, placing high expectations on ourselves to do so much that we easily forget the toll this takes on our health and quality of life! So how does stress impact your health? There is one key body system that is prevalent in how stressed out, wired and tired you can get and that is your Automatic Nervous System (ANS). Your ANS consists of your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Your SNS is your “fight or flight” response, while your PNS is your “rest, digest and repair” response. Stress can be physical, mental or emotional, and the system that is affected the most by any type of stress is your Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight response). When we perceive stress or are physically stressed, our sympathetic nervous system raises our heart rate, increases our respiratory rate, releases cortisol (long term stress-coping hormone), adrenaline (store term stress coping hormone) and directs blood away from our digestive tract and our bodies are unable to rest, digest and repair. When adrenaline is pumping through your system as a result of your body perceiving danger, sugar is dumped into your blood for your body to use to get you out of the situation (such as preparing you to run or flee) and insulin is then released into the blood stream to deal with the blood sugar spike. Although, in today’s world, the danger is perceived and you are often sitting at your desk. Therefore the excess insulin (primary fat storage hormone) pumping through your blood stores as fat. When you blood sugar spikes, it has to come down and that massive drop can leave you feeling completely exhausted and fatigued which has you searching for more sugar or caffeine to pick you up again. It is a vicious cycle! Long term, this vicious cycle can lead to cortisol problems which slow down your metabolism, telling your cells to store fat, can cause blood glucose problems such as diabetes and not to mention long term fatigue, adrenal burn out and much more… That is why it is so super important to make a conscious effort to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which allows you to rest, digest and repair! Diet (caffeine, sugar, white processed carbs, and alcohol) does play a huge role in the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, but our emotional patterns, our choices and attitude also contribute on the highest level. Here are a few suggestions to try, so you can start slowing down and relax into your day, creating more room, space and time for yourself;

  1. Learn to say “NO” and stop people pleasing!

  2. Ditch seeking approval and acceptance from others, as long as you accept and approve of yourself, nothing else matters. Release your need to achieve and impress others and focus on what you really want in life…

  3. Put yourself first – unapologetically! If you are not healthy or happy, it is very hard to give your full energy to others in your life.

  4. Take breaks during your day and sit in stillness. Siting in stillness and being alone with your thoughts, gives you space to process situations and release the chaos.

  5. Meditate even for 5-mins, a great APP to download is Deepak Chopra Breath Meditation.

  6. Deep belly breathing. This is one of the best ways to quickly activate your parasympathetic nervous system and bring you back into the present moment, which is where the magic happens!

  7. Sleep early by getting to bed before 10.00pm.

  8. Keep a gratitude journal. This can remind you of all the good things you have in your life.

  9. Release your attachment to outcomes and just enjoy the journey and process of life.

  10. Change your thoughts and you will change your life! We all have choices we can make. Stress is perception, and it is up to us to determine how we perceive a situation. Take a minute to think of what is really important to you in life and it can help you gain some perception on the situation. What is your perception of stress and how can you start to change it? Would love your comments here…

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