What is stress?
Stress affects people in different ways and at different levels. Work, relationships and money can put great demands on everyday life. When we’re under too much emotional or mental pressure, we can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
What are the causes of stress?
Stress doesn’t just affect how we feel and behave but also our bodies. Stress causes our hormones to surge as a coping mechanism - but these will remain in the body if constantly feeling stressed out, leading to stress symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension. We may feel anxious, irritable, find concentrating hard and have problems sleeping.
Chronic stress can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems and increase the risk of heart attack. It can even make you more vulnerable to mental health problems such as depression.
How to deal with stress
Stress can’t be prevented but it can be managed. Resorting to drinking and smoking is unhealthy and makes matters worse, but there are simple changes to your diet and lifestyle that help in dealing with stress.
Try to plan your week ahead and set some time aside for yourself away from work to go shopping or arrange a social event such as going to the cinema – having a good network of friends and family around you is important, and laughter is a great tension-reliever. Exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins: even a short ten minute burst of activity can provide a welcome distraction and lift your mood.
Try to get a good night’s sleep as you’ll feel more able to cope with the demands of the following day. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness, can help with sleeping well at night and staying calm during the day.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein and healthy fats are far more beneficial for your well-being than resorting to sugary snacks, fast food or a convenience meal.