The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain,depression, illness and sleep issues.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless and depressed
- Avoiding others.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear
- Cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Excess sweating
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth.
Different people face different stress and deal differently. I had read this article about Men, women and stress, I can see the difference from this simple example of a married couple dealing with their stress in daily life. It mentioned that :
- “men like to either focus on a solution or ignore the whole problem whereas women like to talk about it.”
- “women were more likely to deal with stress by so-called “tending and befriending”, so nurturing their loved ones and developing social networks of people to help them.”
- “men leaned towards the “fight or flight” response when it comes to stress, either bottling it up and escaping, or fighting back.”. It’s to do with our hormones: women have higher levels of oxytocin and combined with the female hormones it makes for a different stress response.
- They have very different mental, physical and emotional perspectives.
- “men and women’s brains were designed slightly differently. If you go back 200,000 years when men were hunter gathers they had to focus on survival whereas women, according to research, were better at multitasking, looking after children in the caves and watching for dangers.”
- “Women would still be thinking about an issue and the stress would continue to impact on them. They are more likely to want to explore the issue and talk about it with a friend.”
In this article it talks about stress-busting strategies for both sexes:
- A study in 2010 by the American Psychological Association found that women were far more likely to read a book to manage their stress than men, 57% compared to 34%.
- Women were more likely to turn to food in times of stress, 31% compared to 21% of men.
- Men preferred to play sport to help alleviate stress, 16% compared to 4% of women
- “I’d really recommend physical exercise for men under stress. If you notice you are shouting more or feeling extra tense you definitely could do with more physical exercise, preferably outside.”
- Naomi recommends women under stress write a journal, “The act of writing down how you feel, what’s making you feel this way and what you should do about it is good for acknowledging stress in your life.
- Talking therapy is particularly good for women, but it doesn’t mean it may not be suitable for men too.
- Men and women both get stressed. It may be competition and work pressure which is causing stress for a man. It may be a woman feeling stressed as she sacrifices her own time for everyone else. It could be the other way around.
Another article I had read about Middle age women and stress, which make me realize that we all go through stressful events at some stage in our lives and I need to research thoroughly which stage I want to focus on for my target audience. Women at this stage might be facing problems such as death of a close family member, divorce, widowhood, serious illness or death of a child, mental illness or alcoholism in a close family member, personal or partner’s unemployment, and poor social support. Symptoms of distress, such as irritability, fear and sleep disturbances were reported. The article prove that middle age stress may increase dementia risk.
Although there are many ways to cope, one solution is to eat stress-fighting foods. Some food can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time. A nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure.
- warm porridge: boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical.
- Complex carbohydrates: prompt the brain to make more serotonin, for example wholegrain breakfast cereals, bread, pastas and porridge. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilising blood sugar levels.
- Simple carbohydrates: Dieticians usually recommend steering clear of simple carbs, which include sweets and fizzy drinks. But these foods can provide short-term relief of stress-induced irritability. Simple sugars are digested quickly, leading to a surge in serotonin.
- Oranges: vitamin C can reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system.
- Spinach: Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels and tends to get depleted when we’re under pressure. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. Try a salmon fillet, also high in magnesium
- Oily fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna (not tinned tuna), can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect from heart disease.
- Black tea: help recover from stressful events more quickly. Coffee, on the other hand, can boost levels of cortisol.
- Pistachios, Avocados,Almonds, Raw vegetables, Bedtime snack(light), Milk, Herbal remedies
De-stress with exercise
Besides changing your diet, one of the best stress-busting tips is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise is the most effective, because it increases oxygen circulation and produces endorphins — chemicals that make you feel happy. To get the maximum benefit, aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, exercising on most days of the week.
Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation, such as walking, swimming, painting, knitting – any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment. If you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your list of things to do, experts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back to the repetition of the activity.
2. Picture yourself relaxed
Creating a peaceful visualisation, or ‘dreamscape’. To start simply visualise anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favourite holiday spot, a fantasy island, a short break in London – or something ‘touchable’ such as the feel of your favourite silk dressing gown or cosy jumper. The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream (in terms of colours, sights, sounds, even touch and feel) the more relaxation you’ll experience.
3. Breathe deeply
Feeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with relaxed breathing, says Michael Lee, author of Turn Stress into Bliss. So to turn tension into relaxation, he says, change the way you breathe. “Try this: let out a big sigh, dropping your chest and exhaling through gently pursed lips, says Joan Borysenko, director of Harvard University’s Mind-Body Clinical Programmes. Now imagine your low tummy, or centre, as a deep powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire tummy, sides and lower back expand. Exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest, and feeling your tummy, back and sides contract. Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time.”
4. Look around you
‘Mindfulness is the here-and-now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful. It’s approaching life like a child, without passing judgement on what occurs. Mindfulness means focusing on one activity at a time, so forget multitasking. Practise it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you’re outdoors, enjoy the shape and colours of flowers, hear a bird’s call or consider a tree. In the shopping centre look at the details of a dress in the window, examine a piece of jewellery and focus on how it’s made, or window-shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style.
5. Drink tea
If you’re a coffee guzzler, consider going green. Coffee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty. Chamomile tea for calming the mind and reducing stress, Black tea fight stress.
6. Show some love
Induce the relaxation response by cuddling your pet, giving an unexpected hug to a friend or family member, snuggling with your spouse or talking to a friend about the good things in your lives. Social interaction helps your brain think better, encouraging you to see new solutions to situations that once seemed impossible. Studies have also shown that physical contact (such as stroking your dog or cat) may actually help lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones.
7. Try self-massage
When your muscles are tense and you’ve no time to visit a professional, try this simple self-massage technique:
- Place both hands on your shoulders and neck.
- Squeeze with your fingers and palms.
- Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed.
- Wrap one hand around the other forearm.
- Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers.
- Move up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again.
- Repeat with other arm.
8. Take a break
Adults need breaks too. So when you sense your temper is about to erupt, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and put the stressful situation on hold. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on releasing tension and calming your heartbeat. Quiet your mind and remember: time is always on your side, so relax. The stress can wait.
9. Try a musical detour
Music can calm the heartbeat and soothe the soul (slow tempo of a relaxing song).
10. Take an attitude break
Thirty seconds is enough time to shift your heart’s rhythm from stressed to relaxed. Creating a positive emotional attitude can also calm and steady your heart rhythm, contributing to feelings of relaxation and peace.The way to do that: engage your heart and your mind in positive thinking. Start by envisioning anything that triggers a positive feeling – a vision of your child or spouse, the image of your pet, that great piece of jewellery you’re saving up to buy, a memento from a holiday – whatever it is, conjuring up the thought will help slow breathing, relax tense muscles and put a smile on your face.