Firstly, let’s set the record straight. Despite what the media tell us, not all stress is bad. In fact, in many situations, it’s a very appropriate state to be in. When we are in a stressed state, we are focused and alert – the best state for when we are presenting to The Board or in the middle of cooking Christmas dinner. But being stressed for too long is mentally and physically exhausting and it then starts to deplete our inner resources which in time can create health problems. The answer therefore lies in making sure you have the right amount of recovery and rest time in your day to counteract the stressful parts. You want to go for a ratio of 2 parts stress to 1 part recovery over a 24 hour period.
So how do you go about making sure you have enough recovery time in your day? My 3 top tips are as follows:
It’s not just about the length of time you are in bed, but more importantly the quality of your sleep when you are asleep. You can think you are asleep but actually you are still in a stressed state for much of the night which therefore gives you very poor recovery time.Alcohol has a very significant effect on delaying us getting into a restful state. As a rough rule of thumb, for every unit of alcohol you drink, it delays you going into a restful state by 1 hour. I am not suggesting giving up alcohol, but would recommend that you try and have at least 3 dry days a week to give you that decent quality of sleep to replenish your resources.
Take a break
It’s not always easy or possible to have time-out during the day, but research shows that if we can give ourselves a total of 30 minutes rest during the day, we will be more productive and better at making decisions. So stop for a quick lunch, jump on board with the Mindfulness trend (it really does work), take some deep breaths, or go and get some fresh air. It can be a few minutes here or there or in bigger chunks throughout your day – it’s all good and will really make a difference.
Get some exercise
Recommended guidelines are that we should do some moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week. This seems a lot but when you break it down, it’s only 30 minutes 5 times a week. And to make it even more manageable, that 30 minutes doesn’t need to be done in one go. So jump off the bus a stop earlier when coming home from work, walk up the stairs rather than take the lift….as long as you are walking at a brisk pace, then you can achieve this goal. Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of managing stress, and as a physiotherapist, I see first-hand that this is true.
So for the rest of today, keep calm (take a deep breath) and carry on…
Find out exactly how your body reacts to the stressors in your life by having a lifestyle assessment.