During Lifeline’s Stress Down Day- 22 July 2016
by Clinical Psychologist, Cherie Dalton
What’s for dinner? I’m running late! Another bill to pay. Buy a gift. People coming for lunch. Have to work back late. Nothing ironed. Fitting in exercise. Getting to bed late again. Lunch boxes. Early starts. Family arguments. Fridge leaking. Stuck in traffic. Another negative news story.
Aaarrrrgghhh “STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF!” The good news is, it’s Stress Down Day and there is much we can do to reduce the stress by being aware.
Our nervous system has an accelerator and a brake! Much like our immune system, when there is threat to our health, our immune system fires up to handle the impact and returns to normal once we are well again. At times of increased demand and stress, our sympathetic nervous system accelerates to deal with the stress by producing stress hormones that assist our body to be ready to fight, flee or freeze. The result is increased heart rate, faster breathing, increased alertness, tense muscles, readiness to react, decreased appetite and disrupted sleep. Once the stress has passed, our parasympathetic nervous system applies the brakes and we return to our normal calmer selves. In other words, the parasympathetic system functions to help us ‘rest and digest’.
At times of enduring stress such as our modern, busy lives we have little down time to apply the brakes and our nervous systems are expected to continue firing with no rest. Just as we need to nurture our immune systems to support physical health, it’s vital that we recognise our bodies need to ‘control-alt-delete’ from the physical and emotional impacts of stress and to apply the brakes. Our minds and bodies need a rest from the stress and a good deal more sleep! The following suggestions assist us to apply the brakes and support our parasympathetic nervous system to cope with daily life.
- Eat well no matter how busy you are (for some people, just remembering to eat is helpful!)
- Keep tabs on your caffeine intake
- Remember to keep up your water intake
- Find a buffer between work and home life (e.g take a walk, go to the gym, put on some music, call a friend before arriving home)
- Notice if you are taking responsibility for things you don’t need to
- Reintroduce the things that help keep life balanced (these are often removed during stressful times)
- Walk and notice what you can hear, smell, see and touch
- Ask yourself what you are grateful for each morning (just 3 things!)
- Look at someone you care about in the eyes and notice what they mean to you
- Ask yourself “Do we need a night out without the kids?”
- Leave work on time and make a social arrangement or commitment to help you do this
- Consider if there is something that can be delegated or worked on collaboratively
- Spend time with nature – plan a bushwalk, a picnic, fish and chips and a walk at the waterfront or on the beach, take City Cat somewhere, sit on the grass, lie and look at the clouds
- Try the free trial of the HeadSpace App to learn about meditation
- Commit to getting to bed earlier and ensure no screen time before bed
- Take a hot bath with Epsom Salts.
If you feel you’ve been under chronic stress for a while and you are concerned about its impact on your mood, chat to your doctor and consider a referral to a psychologist. There is much that can be done to ease and prevent the negative effects of stress. For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants visit our Brisbane Psychologists page.