What’s doing this to your body?
At its most basic, stress is your body’s response to outside demands and pressures.
Balancing work and home in a bustling city like London is hectic, and it is no surprise when you begin to feel these demands and pressures manifest as fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability. Many people don’t know there is a science behind stress. As part of our commitment to helping you Return to Glory wants to help you understand and fight back .
However, while we generally associate stress with negative events in our lives, anxiety can be triggered by both good and bad experiences. Starting a new job, buying a new home, or having a baby are all examples of exciting events in our lives; however, these occasions can also be as stressful as they are thrilling.
What is happening to our bodies that we feel strained even when we’re happy?
When our brains or bodies face a challenge – whether it’s calculating a complex equation or sprinting to catch a ball, we automatically engage our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This involuntary system of nerves is responsible for controlling and releasing cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that help our bodies cope with the challenge before us. The involuntary release of these hormones is frequently referred to as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, and is extremely effective in preparing us to bolt or battle. This automatic response was crucial to the survival of primitive humans, who needed that rush of energy and focus to either catch their supper or avoid becoming a larger animal’s dinner. This is the same rush we feel when we’re finishing the final leg of a marathon or the last page of a crucial proposal.
There are many benefits to our ‘fight-or-flight’ response:
§ our blood thickens – increasing the flow of red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight off infection, and platelets that can quickly stop any bleeding
§ our heart beats faster and respiration speeds up to supply more oxygen to the muscles
§ our muscles tighten as we ready to attack or flee
§ our mind focuses on the problem
§ our sensitivity to pain is lowered
However, living in the modern metropolitan city that is London, most of us do not need to run after or away from animals to survive (not most of the time anyhow!)
So why is my body still doing this?
Our bodies haven’t evolved as fast as our environments have. Our ability to respond to everyday pressures has stayed the same with the powerful ‘fight-or-flight’ response. For example, we might feel our heart speed up and our muscles tense when we are running late for work, or we might experience dizziness and tension right before making an important speech.
With the many pressures we face in our busy London lives, our bodies can be on constant fight-mode, and yet we are no longer benefiting from these automatic responses. Over time, what once were benefits become deficits: we lose our appetite, become sore from the constant muscle tension, feel light-headed from the increased respiration and heart-rate, and become mentally exhausted – all symptoms we recognize as stress.
So how do we prevent stress from taking over our lives?
Reclaim your right to relaxation
Now that we understand what causes stress, we can address ways to avoid it and reclaim your right to relaxation.
Pause and Plan
Although our bodies automatically respond to perceived threats, we can make a conscious decision to approach our day-to-day challenges in a way that keeps them from feeling like threats. Sometimes, this requires taking a step back to evaluate the “worst case scenario” when you are confronted with anxiety. In doing so, you most likely understand the situation is not as bad as your body is creating unnecessary reaction for.
You might, for example, suddenly discover you left your mobile at home on a day you were expecting an important call. Your heart skips a beat, your muscles tense, and you begin you worry. Rather than allowing your instincts to take over, stop and ask, “What is the worst case scenario?” You may determine that you have to return home to pick up your mobile or that you can call the person back later. Neither option is convenient or ideal, but neither is a life-or-death situation that requires a ‘fight-or-flight’ response from your body.
Once you stop and recognize a situation is not a threat to you, you will feel less anxious. By resisting the temptation to give in to your body’s automatic response, you will find that you not only feel less tense, but you are also able to find more effective solutions. You can then go one step further in preventing future anxiety by devising a manageable plan of action to avoid the set of circumstances that caused the problem initially.
Take care of yourself.
The biggest step towards not only preventing stress, but also removing existing stress from your life is taking the time to take care of you.
- Get enough sleep: Give your body time to recover each day.
- Take a break from work: Don’t skip your lunch break – give your brain and body a chance to rest and relax.
- Eat healthy: Give your body the nutrients it needs to keep you feeling strong.
- Exercise regularly: Pump up your endorphins to boost your mood. If you don’t like cardio, why not try Yoga or Pilates?
- Find a creative outlet: Draw, write, sing, dance! Find a diversion you enjoy.
- Find something that makes you laugh.
- Schedule time for yourself: As the poet William Wordsworth once wrote,
“When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude;”
- Get a massage, or have your partner give you a massage.
Remember, there is no instant cure or vaccine for stress. Calming your nerves and finding peace means taking care of yourself regularly. Don’t wait until stress has already hit you before dealing with it. Make sure you schedule time in your usual routine for the things that help you unwind. Whether it’s a walk in the park, or a soothing aromatherapy treatment, treat yourself regularly so you have created time for you and something to look forward to throughout the week.
We know we’re a good resource for busy Londoners trying to juggle a million demands (of course!) Don’t forget to book your regular pick-me-ups, and put your feet up for once. Some of our favorites are a regular deep tissue massage that really releases the pressure from within. And there is nothing more calming that when you feel like you look good. Remember, with us you can combine any beauty treatments as and when you need them.
What are your ways of managing the stress in your life? How do you relax and unwind? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
We hope you found this article helpful! For more tips on how to beat stress, be sure to take a look at the following articles: