Stress is No Small Thing
2020 has been quite a year.
However the pandemic has affected your lifestyle, stress would have affected you in some way.
Whether it’s in anticipation of a deadline while working from home WFH, repetitive stress caused by one bad news after another (episodic) or even the type that feels like it will never go away (chronic), it’s fundamental to consider the effects that stress can have on your long-term health.
It’s Bigger Than You Think
When we face a stressful event, our nervous system is activated and releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, these hormones increase our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, metabolism and muscle tension.
The effect of putting our bodies on constant alert means we can become frazzled and worn out over time, and it can also have other detrimental effects such as weakening our immune system. As women, we are often juggling multiple tasks and end up pushing through this, which can lead us to feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep well or turning to “fixes” such as alcohol, smoking and caffeine.
Ways to Combat Stress
- Set boundaries: isolating at home? Setting boundaries could be as easy as having separate areas for work, for sleep and for relaxation. Rituals such as shutting down your computer and switching your phone to sleep mode during sleep can help separate your responsibilities.
- Make time for exercise: prioritise you, and aim for 20-30 mins a day of exercise. Walk in nature when you can, try to stand when you speak on the phone, or sign up to one of the many available yoga or strength training courses online.
- Meditate: there is a lot of research available now around the power and benefits of meditation and incorporating a short mindfulness practice during the day allows you to switch off and mentally recharge your batteries. There are many apps available such as Headspace and Smiling Mind or there are ways to be more mindful such as during your daily walk, taking time to read, or even doing chores like cooking with no TV to distract you.
- Look at your diet: you cannot expect to have long days, juggling multiple work and/or family commitments if you are not eating the right food. Start your day right with a hearty breakfast, snack on some roasted almonds for some Vitamin E and Calcium, eat good fats such as avocado and ensure you are having enough vitamin C from fresh fruit and veggies.
- Get more sleep: it is not enough to exist on 5-6 hours when it should be nearer 7 to 8 hours. Go to bed earlier and reset your body clock, ensure you have a dim room with good blockout curtains. Reduce technology an hour before bed as the LED (blue) light affects the sleep hormone melatonin which can keep you awake.
Make Yourself Priority
If you’re experiencing extreme symptoms of any kind (such as lack of sleep), then it is important to talk to your local GP/Physician and if necessary they can refer you to a specialist. Make yourself a priority and be on top of your health – this is especially important for women who have others to care for – be that a spouse, elderly parent or children.
Australian Psychological Society (link)