Today is National Stress Awareness Day…so David decided to share a few thoughts as well as his top five tips to help you help others who are stressed.
Have you ever considered that stress could be your friend? No, I haven’t gone mad…hear me out. The word stress derives from the Latin ‘stringere’ which means to tighten. It’s a perfectly natural and extremely helpful state that is hardwired into our brains and bodies to protect us. It makes the blood ‘stickier’ and causes capillaries to close, which restricts bleeding if we are injured. The hormones related to stress are part of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms that evolution has created to keep us safe when we are under threat in short-term, emergency situations.
Acknowledging that stress is a natural, helpful state or reaction in some situations can be quite empowering if we think judiciously about the times when we are stressed but a different response would be more helpful. Easier said than done I know, but at least knowing there might be a choice could be helpful. I hear many people describe stress as if it’s something they have no control over; something that must be universally accepted as part of modern life. I understand this, but it saddens me because I don’t think stress is something we have to accept, and I am pleased days like today are helping to raise awareness. There are also the health implications of stress to consider. Despite it being a part of our make-up designed to keep us alive, it’s been called ‘the silent killer’! It can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain and an irregular heartbeat. Chronic stress floods the brain with powerful hormones that can damage, shrink or even kill brain cells. Nasty!
So here are my top tips for helping others who are suffering from this dreadful ‘own goal’ from mother nature:
1 – make them laugh. Laughing lowers stress hormones and strengthens the immune system by releasing health-enhancing hormones. If you are not a natural comedic genius, then buy them a joke book or take them to see a funny show.
2 – buy them chocolate! Seriously…research has shown that dark chocolate reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and other fight/flight hormones.
3 – get them moving. Physical exercise can reduce excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. And it doesn’t have to be a hard-fought game of squash or a triathlon; a brisk walk in the fresh air might do the trick.
4 – encourage them to try something different. Having time to think about something different and exercising different parts of the brain can work wonders. An ex-boss of mine used to fly helicopters to take his mind off things. He told me that keeping the helicopter in the air took his undivided attention; there was no time to think about any of life’s other challenges when his biggest challenge was staying alive.
5 – buy them a copy of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’, by Mark Manson. The clue as to why is in the title and it will also help with top tip number one as it’s a hilarious read (with some very powerful messages and useful tools to combat stress).
Find out more about National Stress Awareness Day here and get more information about stress and some cool, helpful resources.