To continue the important topic of stress this month and to expand on our previous blog post, we asked NHS Doctor, Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence, for her advice on all things stress and how to deal with it.
Here’s what she had to say:
“Stress is a massively neglected pillar of health. Particularly in today’s society, being busy all the time is congratulated, but chronic high levels of stress could be having a negative impact on your long‐term health.
“When stress mechanisms are activated for too long, it can be disadvantageous to your health, having actual physical consequences such as high blood pressure, heart disease and increase risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
Stress can come in many forms, not just the obvious mental stress. Stress can be due to financial worries, work, exams, relationship troubles, but also physical stressors such as not getting enough sleep, exercising too much and not giving yourself enough recovery and not getting the right nutrition. Also the chronic daily ‘micro‐stressors’ you might not have thought of– constantly being inundated with emails, rushing for the train, not being able to find a parking space, waking up to an alarm every day to name a few. All these things can lead to release of our stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which if raised over a long period of time can negatively affect our health.
It can be difficult to recognise stress. You may feel emotionally stressed but it can also present in vague ways such as headaches, muscle pains, irritable bowel syndrome, low libido, difficulty concentrating, being snappy, having poor sleep or making poor lifestyle choices – drinking more, smoking, not exercising, making poor food choices.
Being stressed can also have an impact on our food choices – we may feel fatigued and opt for more calorie dense foods for extra energy or be too busy to prepare food opting for pre‐ packaged processed foods with high sugar content – this can contribute to developing type 2 diabetes.”
How to manage stress:
- Reflect and think what is contributing to stress and make a plan
- Control the ‘controllables’ – we might not be able to change a stressful period at work but plan ahead to reduce other stressful things in your life e.g., not rushing in the morning, getting enough sleep, preparing healthy & nutritious meals
- Use time‐management techniques to help you take control
- Breathing exercises
- Get support – talking to friends or family, getting support from GP or even charities like Samaritans
- Use mindful calming apps
- Try and use exercise to relax
- Please see your GP if you are struggling to cope with stress