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Speak Up and Speak Out About Stress

Posted on 1st November 2017 by

This Wednesday is National Stress Awareness Day, we take a look at what stress is really doing to our  National Stress Awareness Day bodies and how we can both recognise it and combat it.

What is stress?

Stress is anything which exerts pressure on us beyond our individual ability to cope. It has traditionally been thought of as a flight or fight response; increasing our alertness, muscle tone and heart rate to respond to a perceived threat. However modern-day stress can come in many forms such as workplace pressures, relationship issues, juggling family commitments or looking after a sick relative, which can all take their toll.

What happens when we are stressed?

When we are stressed our body releases chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are imperative for our survival, however if their levels are sustained for a prolonged period they will start to impact on our physical health and affect many different organs in our body.

Symptoms of stress

Symptoms of stress can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Indecisiveness
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Over or under eating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Reflux
  • Increased risk of diabetes, heart conditions and stroke
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and viruses

Can exercise help with stress?

Yes! Exercise helps lower our blood pressure, reduce the levels of stress hormones in our body, improve our mood, our muscle flexibility and tone, as well as distracting us from other stressors and helping us to get a good night’s sleep.

Great forms of stress-busting exercise include classes such as Pilates, tai chi and yoga, which focus on breathing and flexibility of the body. They also give us the opportunity to ‘check in’ with ourselves and become more aware of how we are feeling physically and mentally. Whilst this gives us some much needed me-time, classes can also be a great social opportunity which is perfect for boosting our mood!

The ISMA (international stress management association) has come up with 7 positive ways to influence stress

1. Change the thought – Change the outcome

This is the starting point, reprogramming your brain by replacing an unhelpful negative thought or belief with a new positive one. Use your imagination to visualise or ‘show’ your brain what you want. The power of the mind cannot be over-estimated!

2. Self-belief starts with you

This is an empowering way of taking more control in your life rather than relying on others to make you feel good. Do something fun or caring for yourself today!

3. Don’t just do what you did last year

Repeating what you always do will bring you the same outcome unless others change & this is not in your control. So if you didn’t like all that happened last year make plans & set new goals, do something different!

4. Deal with difficult decisions now, not later

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” We all know this but positive action is required to make it happen. Prioritize & do the difficult tasks first in the day so you have a clear focus for the rest of the day making you less stressed & more productive!

5. Find reasons to say “yes”

“I would love to but….” here comes the negative reason why you can’t! It can be a really positive experience to just say yes, if it is possible & what you want, then try to find ways that will allow you the opportunity, maybe you need others to persuade you, take control & decide for yourself!

6. Renegotiate

Stuck with what you have always had & now want a change? Look at learning to develop & use your assertive skills, ask for what you want, discuss your changing needs, expectations with yourself & others to reach the deal that works for you!

7. Flip it!

There are always two sides to every situation, sometimes more. Take time to look at all your options, don’t just assume, maybe ask others & make informed choices based on facts!

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National Stress Awareness Day: Can Exercise Help?

Posted on 2nd November 2016 by

National Stress Awareness Day is today and it aims to make people more aware of the impact stress can have on your everyday life. It also aims to help people identify ways to deal with this stress and find a way to reduce it.

This year’s focus is “Workforce Wellness – Your Prime Investment”

Research has shown that increased stress levels can lead to an increased risk of injury – some examples are listed below.

How do stress levels impact on injury risk?

  • Stress can increase muscular tension, which can then lead to aches and pain. Neck and back muscles are particularly prone to stress related tension.
  • Increased muscular tension can also lead to muscle strains or tears as the muscle is under a greater load and is less flexible than normal.
  • Stress levels may cause you to forget an important piece of equipment when working out, such as proper running shoes or corrective orthotic insoles. This places additional strain on your body, raising the risk of injury.
  • Stress on your time management might force you to exercise at different times, for example first thing in the morning when your muscles aren’t fully warmed up or last thing in the day when you are tired. It might also cause you to rush or not take as much care when you are exercising.
  • High stress levels can also reduce your body’s immunity levels, increasing the likelihood of a poor recovery from any minor injury.
  • You may also find that stress distracts you from the activity in front of you – whether that is exercising, working or even a simple task such as crossing the road or walking up stairs. This distraction could result in a sprained joint or pulled muscle.

Research has also suggested that stress can be reduced through regular exercise and movement.

How can exercise reduce my stress levels?

  • Exercise gives you something to focus on away from the cause of your stress.
    It helps to boost your mood by increasing self confidence, improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety.
  • Any form of exercise will help – even a short walk at lunch time or getting off the bus a stop early allows you to get some fresh air and takes your mind away from stressful thoughts.
  • A flexibility based exercise, such as Pilates or Yoga, will help to reduce muscle tension and can help ease aching related to this.
  • Scheduling some time specifically for exercising may also help as it will give your day structure and breaks up time spent sat in front of the computer!
  • If you exercise with friends, colleagues or family, the social element of this will again boost your mood and reduce stress levels.
  • Find a new sport or something fun to do – there are lots of different things out there to try!

Here are the top 10 steps to stress free living from International Stress Management Association UK.

National Stress Awareness Day

#NationalStressAwarenessDay