Dealing with stress and anxiety through wellness
Having recently found myself sliding gently down the slippery slope of stress and anxiety towards the dreaded depression reminded me that leading by example is always a good idea and I really should follow my own advice instead of simply coaching my clients and ignoring myself…
Wellness is so incredibly important for us at all times, but particularly when things get tough. The better our level of wellness, the more resistance we have to all problems. Wellness increases our resilience which is always a good thing.
During 2019 (so imagine the increase for 2020 with covid) 79% of workers have experienced stress at work (Capita Workplace Wellness, Employee Insight Report 2019) resulting in sleeping problems, reduced confidence, low motivation and less time actually spent at work. As well as this there are other impacts which not only affect the person who is stressed, but also those around them – 44% becoming more irritated, 25% drinking more alcohol, 15% smoking more and 28% giving their families a hard time because of it – not an easy situation for any of us.
As well as the above if we don’t do something concrete to reduce or control our stress and anxiety it can actively contribute to other more serious physical health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD.
When we feel stressed our body is stimulated to produce more of the hormones that trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response. If this is as a result of a genuinely dangerous situation and lasts only a short time that is fine, we return to our normal state and carry on living happily and actively. However, our body can’t tell the difference between a real danger or threat and the stress that we have more and more of in our everyday lives, both at work and at home. Our body is therefore producing this ‘fight or flight’ hormone far, far too often which then causes damage to our body and makes us overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Why does focusing on wellness help us? Because if we approach wellness properly, we achieve physical, mental and emotional balance, we become ‘holistic’ and that lets our body and mind become more resistant and operate at their optimum. Result? Happiness and health, not stress and disease…
Starting with food (FUEL):
A healthy diet not only helps reduce the risk of some diseases – think what the doctor always says to anyone with heart, blood pressure and diabetes among others: Change your food, eat healthily, avoid x, y and z! – but also it improves our mood.
Certain foods affect our mood, our reactions, our energy levels. By eating healthily and removing these negative impact foods (sugar obviously is a major culprit but there are several others, processed, refined, high fat dairy, ‘diet or light’ anything as it contains aspartame which is a big no-no, fried, alcohol).
Make sure how you FUEL your body is the best it can be: fresh, natural, balanced and wholesome. Aim for 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% whole grains, 25% protein (preferably with a large amount of this being plant-based protein). See the Canada food plate illustration here as a guide…
By the way, if you would like me to do a (free) nutrition and lifestyle analysis for you download here.
Don’t forget the FUEL we provide our body nourishes everything, our brain, our energy, our organs… The better the fuel, the superior the functioning of our brain, body and mind!
Then exercise (FITNESS):
Regular physical activity is one of the main pillars of wellness. It reduces stress and anxiety as well as making us fitter. You don’t have to immediately sign up for the gym though, in fact, being outside in nature is even better – look at the studies and results from ‘forest bathing’ (walking amongst trees, in forests). Ideally you should spend at least 20 minutes daily of physical activity at a a level which induces slight breathlessness. It can reduce stress by up to 40% so it’s well worth it.
It also helps prevent, combat, or reduce, illnesses e.g. heart, high blood pressure, obesity, mental health problems.
My recommendation is brisk walking outside in nature (or running if you prefer) combined with regular yoga. Yoga is the miracle exercise that does everything, flexibility, strengthening, balancing, improving posture AND mental relaxation as well. It can even become a type of meditation. There is a strong connection between yoga and neuroscience.
Keep an eye on my website as I am in the midst of creating ‘The Zen Den’ where you will be able to stream both audio meditations/relaxations and watch/follow brief yoga videos so you can do 20 minutes or so of yoga, and meditate, all from the privacy of your own home, with my dulcet tones to inspire you 😉
FITNESS is good for our body and good for our mind. Apart from the physical improvement to muscles, joints, organs, cardiovascular system etc it energises us, reduces fatigue, improves focus, increases our ability to relax, elevates and stabilises our mood, increases our self-esteem and helps us sleep better. Exercise reduces the levels of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and produces endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators… So, you see why exercise and fitness are so essential.
Moving on to mindset (FREEDOM):
We need to encourage a positive and peaceful mindset rather than allowing negative and despondent to creep in. Wellness includes all aspects of body and mind… not just nutrition and exercise!
How do you manage your mind? Do you ignore it, do you even think about it? It never occurs to most of us to actually think about how we think. I was/am a prime example! I am getting much better, but I still have my ups and downs when I don’t think about my reactions, my way of looking at things, my programming and predeterminations. We are creatures of habit and if we have always reacted in a certain way, we tend to get a bit stuck in that rut.
Meditation and mindfulness are extremely helpful for this. They are very helpful for stress and anxiety management but not just for this, also for achieving clarity, improving serenity as well as upping the levels of pleasure, satisfaction and enjoyment we get just living our normal life.
Meditation is like giving your mind a holiday, allowing it to totally turn off, relax and just ‘be’ without having to do anything, think anything, or be bombarded by the constant ‘chatter’ and ‘noise’ around us. Developing a meditation practice is like giving our mind an increasingly nicer, happier, freer holiday each time. It relaxes us, it removes stress, worries and irritations. It allows us to turn off and detach when we need to. It becomes our little cloud of peace and serenity that we can retreat to at will. Also, the underlying effects are good for both physical and mental health. Even starting with just 5 minutes a day is a great first step…
I am sure you have heard it a thousand times but if we focus on the ‘now’ and enjoy what is happening on our journey rather than getting hung up about the future and all the ‘what ifs’ then our world really does become a simpler and more positive, enjoyable place to live.
Another thing we all tend to do is feel that happiness is dependent on results, outcomes and events, and those so-called successes. It isn’t. We need to understand that our unhappiness, our negativity, isn’t coming from something that is ‘out there’, it isn’t determined by something we may, or may not, achieve. Unhappiness (and happiness) comes from our own mind and our own choice of vision. It is from our attachment to the way we think. Once we realise this and decide to let go of this attachment to results, outcomes and events, and choose to focus on what is inside us, we can create freedom in our choices – and ultimately choose to react positively or not react at all. What does this give us? The ability to choose (our own) happiness!
Our FREEDOM is that we choose how we feel, we choose how we react to any given circumstance and we stay in the now. It really does make our life and our world a much sunnier place to be 😊
Leading us to FULFILMENT… Another very important part of wellness.
Do you enjoy what you are doing both at work and in life? Does it really fulfil you? Do you have things that you are truly passionate about where you forget time, forget everything around you and find yourself just in the flow of what you are doing, experiencing, living?
If you aren’t sure whether something is fulfilling think how you would feel if it was no longer in your life? Would you miss it greatly or wouldn’t it really bother you much?
Conversely if you have an idea about doing something that isn’t in your life but you aren’t sure if it is a good move to bring it in, then how could you try it out to see how you feel when doing it? Is there a way to experience this temporarily, maybe as a hobby? Obviously, it depends on what you are considering. We need to either take action or let go – we don’t want to let anything interfere with our mindset or place anything on a pedestal as an unattainable dream, we want to keep our ‘freedom’.
With fulfilment, if we can remove some of the things that really don’t fulfil us, then it gives us more space to focus on those that do. Feeling fulfilled creates an amazing flow of happy energy which spreads to all areas of our life.
Wellness – eating well, exercising and being fit, healthy thinking, enjoying what we do and finding balance – is just as important to mental health, physical health, having a successful career and keeping good relationships around us. It is hard to feel good about anything when we are out of balance and that is when stress and anxiety really start to creep in… You are an important person in your own life, give yourself the gift of wellness!
Here is a thought to write on a post-it note as a positive reminder of how wellness ticks all the boxes when we feel a bit ‘meh’:
The healthier the fuel I consume,
The fitter my body and mind,
The freer my thoughts and vision,
The more fulfilling my life,
The greater my chance of real holistic wellness and success.
Wellness is changing my world!
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