Waking up after only a few hours sleep, forcing down some cereal on the go, rushing to the office, meetings after meetings, maybe grabbing something quick for lunch and getting home late only to continue working.
On top of that, you still need to find time for your family, friends and maybe the gym – does this ring a bell? If the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, then you are one of many around the world with high stress levels.
SO HOW MUCH STRESS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE? IS THIS BAD? WELL, LIKE EVERYTHING IN LIFE IT COMES WITH ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES.
When one is stressed, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, making you more alert, active and able to go without food for hours. This enables you to probably get more things done and achieve a lot. This is the upside of being stressed.
The disadvantage of being stressed is that your body will be in ‘fight or flight’ mode. The stress hormones in your body will force your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream, increase circulation and raise your heart rate to make sure your body is ready to fight. Although the way we live may have evolved, we still keep our basic instinct. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors may have relied on this instinct to flee from a predator, for example a wild animal, or fight. The situation may be different now but we still deal with our ‘wild animal’ (in this case stress) much the same way. The problem is that we deal with stress almost on a daily basis and although our bodies are equipped to deal with stress, over time we may exhaust our adrenal glands; which alternative medicine refers to as adrenal fatigue. You know you have reached this point when you are constantly tired, need many cups of coffee, experiencing mood swings – and eventually burning out.
And although being stressed may make your sympatic nerve system more alert, this also means that you will have difficulty unwinding, and getting a good night’s rest.
When we are in fight or flight, the digestive system and reproductive system shut down which may lead to issues in those areas. This could also lead to increased belly fat and many other related problems.
SO HOW MUCH STRESS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE?
Well, you decide. If you feel overwhelmed and your health starts to suffer then you may want to address the issues causing your stress levels to go off the charts.
I get it, career is important. It is for me as well. But in order to perform well in the long term, you need to take care of yourself. Start with pinpointing your minimum requirements – for me it is 7-8 hours sleep, 3 proper sit-down meals with a minimum of 3 portions of fruits and/or vegetables a day, 30 minutes of movement and 30 minutes of connecting with friends and family a day. That’s what I want and need daily in order to feel happy and stay healthy. And I’m flexible with the rest of my time. Of course there are some days when I may miss a requirement or two but I make sure that that’s the exception and not the rule.
Look at your average day and make some notes – What do you spend the most time doing? Who do you spend the most time with? What tasks need to be done? What is actually stressing you? Is it an overload of work, tight deadlines? Are there ways to reduce the burden? Analyse these and see how you could possibly make some tasks more efficient or maybe delegate someone, a colleague, family or friend, who can help you with it.
Find times of mindfulness – set an alarm (gentle ring) once an hour and do a quick check. How do you feel? Observe your environment with all your senses and make a mental note.Also make a conscious effort to get more sleep – the less sleep, the more stress hormones, and vice versa.
The more stressed you are, the more nutrients your body consumes so make sure you eat high quality foods. Although in the long run, finding the cause of the stress would be much better for your health than just treating the symptom.
Stress may be inevitable but what you can do is to manage your stress levels. Adjust your schedule and the way you do things to get your stress level down to a more manageable level.
To be healthy and happy – that’s the main goal.