In this episode Joanne discusses the topic of reducing stress and shares 10 powerful tips related to reducing stress as well as 3 actionable steps you can take right away.
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Hi, I'm Joanne from The Full Spectrum Centre Limited, an award-winning wellness and vocational training center, and you're listening to the Full Spectrum Wellness podcast. This show is all about physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness, for people who are looking to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
Each week I'll share with you all the positive takeaways, tools, techniques, and tips I've gathered in both my personal and professional wellness journey that will help you to look, feel and be well. With a dose of motivation and meditation to keep you going. I'll be joined by a few friends who will be sharing their insights along the way too.
Welcome to episode one of our Full Spectrum Wellness Podcast. I'm so excited to be here with you for our very first episode, and it's a big one today. Today. I want to talk to you about stress. Now I've come across a survey that was completed and carried out in July, 2021, using censuswide and they asked 2000 UK adults on average, how many days do you feel stressed each month?
Now, this survey found that an overwhelming majority of 79% of UK adults felt stressed at least one day of the month. And that on average a typical UK adult feels stressed at approximately 8.27 days a month. That's more than twice a week. And nearly half, so 49% of UK adults admit to feeling stressed five or more days each month. They also found that nearly a third of adults, so 30% feel stressed 10 or more days a month. And that one in every 14 people, so 7% in the UK say they feel stressed every single day, and one in five UK adults. so 21% say they never feel stressed. And here in Manchester, in the Northwest of England where I live and work, 79% of adults said they feel stressed at least once a month.
The survey also showed that a lack of sleep and financial worries were the main causes of stress amongst UK adults in 2021. But the also health, family, weight and the news were also some of the UK's biggest stressors.
And it's such an important topic. We've also been through a pandemic. These figures were on the rise year on year and then we've had that to deal with as well, so it is a really massive issue. But let's look at stress. Stress is the body's non-specific response to any demand that's made upon it. And it can cause exhaustion, physical and psychological problems, such as heart attacks, that would be a physical, and you may even be more accident prone when you're stressed because you just not concentrating, you're not in the moment. It's also important to remember and to recognise that we need a certain amount of stress in our lives. It's what gets us up in the morning. It's what motivates us. It's what drives us to achieve. But when it's consistent and at high levels for a long period of time, it can become a real issue, and our body responds to various forms of physical or psychological stress. And certain changes take place within the body and also the mind. And these can include physical things like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and secretions of stimulatory hormones. And that's whether the stress is positive or negative.
And that continual exposure lowers the body's ability to cope with any additional forms of stress and to heal itself.
And things that cause stress are all around us, so our physical environment, so noise, bright lights, temperature changes being in confined spaces. Those are all environmental factors. We also have social, so our interaction with people. so we might come across somebody who's quite rude or aggressive or negative that can cause stress.
We then have organizational. So that's things like rules and regulations that we have to adhere to, deadlines that we have to meet. And then a big one major life events. So the death of a partner or a friend or a relative. Here in the UK, we have just lost our Monarch, the queen she's passed away. So we've got that collective grief going on as well.
You might get a promotion at work. That can be positive stress. But it's still a stress or at the other end of the spectrum, redundancy. The birth of a new baby or moving house. Those are all major life events that can cause a stress. And then we've got the everyday hassles, everyday stresses. So that might be commuting to work sitting in traffic. It might be losing our keys, so misplacing things. It could be a mechanical breakdown, so the computer stops working or your car breaks down on the way to work, getting the kids off to school on time. Remembering to pack their lunches for their school lunches. All those little things that happen on a daily basis can build and build and cause a stress. And then we've got lifestyle choices. So that's things like drinking too much caffeine, having a lack of sleep, a lack of good quality sleep.
Having overloaded schedules, so just loading ourselves up with way too much to do. Having negative, self-talk, pessimistic or negative thinking, self criticism or judgment and a big one on realistic expectations. And then we've got stressful personality traits. So you might be a perfectionist. You might be a workaholic, or you might be a people pleaser. All of those personality traits can add to our stress.
It's also important to recognise when we might be feeling stressed because it's not always that clear, so if you have a general irritability, if you're feeling impatient or frustrated. You're feeling anxious or nervous. You might even feel a little bit depressed. You might be fearful. You might have insomnia or changes in your sleep patterns, you might have disturbed sleep.
Physically, you might have an increased blood pressure, increased heart rate. You may even have chest pains and trembling. and sometimes panic attacks can mimic a heart attack. You might also have a loss of concentration or memory. You might just not feel humorous, you might just be sort of frustrated and a little bit grumpy all the time.
Whereas you might've found something funny, it then triggers you. You might be indecisive or confused or might procrastinate all the time.
Now also your digestive system might be massively affected. So indigestion, nausea, changes in appetite. In fact, irritable bowel syndrome is a classic, response with stress. It can be caused by food sensitivities and intolerances, but, the majority of cases are stress related. And then we've got physical aches and pains, muscle aches. So neck, shoulders, back pain, abdominal cramps. We are just holding ourselves because we're stressed, has a knock on effect on the muscles.
So all of these things can indicate that we're feeling stressed.
So, what do we do about that? Well, there's lots of different stress management activities and things that you can try, exercises you can try. But every day is just about trying to recognise where the stress is coming from, that you are actually feeling stressed. So being aware of the early warning signs.
And getting healthy. So having regular exercise, at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, three times a week, eating a well balanced diet, so including whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables into your diet, but um avoiding the processed, overly processed fatty and sugary foods. Avoiding caffeine, so coffee and tea, fizzy drinks. And all those chocolates and sweets and biscuits, because they can all aggravate anxiety, insomnia, nervousness.
Alcohol or drug intake these again, can cause headaches and swelling. They can decrease our coping mechanisms and they can add to depression, which all add to the stress. Getting at least seven hours of good quality deep sleep each night. When we sleep when we hit that deep sleep, it's when our bodies regenerate, recharge, replenish. That's when the body heals itself. So if we're not getting that deep sleep, that good quality sleep, our bodies, aren't having chance to do that.
Trying to spend a little time each day relaxing, so completing a relaxation technique, such as yoga or mindfulness or meditation, self hypnosis, you might say a prayer. You might even daydream or doodle, but something that's takes you away from your regular routine, away from that stress. You might just want to stick on some relaxing music, but it's just to take your mind and body away from that stressful situation.
Taking a warm bath when you get home at night, if you've had a long day at work. I love nothing more than getting in the bath and having a soak, I light some candles. I burn some incense. I play some lovely music and I just switch off from the rest of the world. And conversely, you might want to go for a walk, you, might want to get out in fresh air.
Especially if you're indoors all day in an office and you've got an office that doesn't have a window, just getting some time out, out in nature. I've got two cocker Spaniels and take them out for a walk. And just again, being outside in that fresh air, watching them play, running with them is just great for reducing the stress levels.
Touch is another one. So hugging a loved one, holding hands with a loved one. Stroking a pet, as I say, I've got two Cocker Spaniels. One is a retired therapy dog, and clients used to love seeing Rosie at the centre and some of them would come in really distressed, really stressed and just five minutes stroking her was all it needed to bring those stress levels down. And that certainly I make use of that when I come home and I've had a stressful day, I just sit with her, cuddle her, stroke her. I just watch her watch how she copes with stress. It just brings my stress levels down. So physical contact is a great way to relieve stress.
Where you can change a stressful situation, so changing jobs, moving departments , taking that stressor out of your life is for if that's possible. It's not always possible, but if it is an option, do it. And if I can't remove that stressor, trying to plan ahead, trying to problem solve, manage your time, manage your money will help in the long run. As will changing your thinking, so looking and thinking about things more positively. Seeing problems as opportunities. We can't not have negative thoughts. It's okay to have negative thoughts, but we don't want to stay with them for any length of time.
And keeping a sense of humor. They say, laughter is the best medicine. It really is, so just laughing when you can. And it's important as well to recognise that we think that stress is always external, there's always an external reason for it and it's a bit of a paradox, but actually a lot of the stress that we have is put on ourselves. We self-impose it, we give ourself these unrealistic expectations and deadlines and then when we don't achieve it. It causes this tress, but actually we didn't need to do that in the first place. So all of these things are factors and as I said, it's a massive topic.
And as we've seen, as I've demonstrated stress is an overwhelming force that can interrupt your body's natural ability to fend off disease. So I've got 10 top tips for you, to help you reduce your stress. The first one is to recognise when you're stressed, as we've talked about, it's not always that easy. The first step is to recognize that your stressed, to look at those indicators of stress. It's amazing how many people can maintain high levels of stress and that becomes their norm.
So they don't recognise when they get to that point. So being aware, being self-aware, reflecting is a really important activity to do.
And then top tip number two is to go to your happy place. And it doesn't have to be physical. You can just close your eyes and imagine what it would be like if you were in your favorite place or your happy place. It might be a favorite holiday destination that you've been to. It might be an activity like jumping out of a plane if you're a bit of a Daredevil.
It might just be sitting under a tree in a forest. Whatever it is for you, wherever your happy place is just close your eyes and imagine you there, use all of your senses. What does it look like? What does it sound like, what does it feel like, what does it smell like? Just use all of your senses and really imagine yourself beingthere.
Top tip number three is to find a place that's quiet. We live in a world that is a hundred miles an hour. We are overstimulated by phones, by tablets, by televisions, screens. Everything is really fast paced and technological. So find a place where you can go to just get away from it, even if that's just for five or 10 minutes a day. It can really work wonders to reset your internal batteries and to help you to continue on with your day. So think about where you could go just to go for a better peace and quiet.
Top tip number four is to connect socially. We really are social creatures. We need contact with each other. We need face-to-face contact with each other. Zoom has been great during the lockdowns and the pandemic because it's allowed people to still have that contact, but there's nothing better than being in somebody's company, face to face. Try to stay off topics that might stress you out. Keep it light hearted. Otherwise, you'll just add to the stress. So you might want to talk about music or funny things. Wherever it is that you can have fun with your friends and talk about.
Top tip number five is to volunteer. Volunteering can really help you to see that your life isn't as bad as you may think it is. When we are in a position where we see others that are worse off, it does give us the ability to help those people and that can lower our stress levels dramatically. So if that's something you're in a position to do, I highly recommend it.
Top tip number six, as we've talked about already exercise. It's really proven to reduce stress. So if your really stressed out, consider just having some form of exercise. You might want to go to the extremes of doing something like Kickboxing, or going to a boot camp, or you might just want to take the dogs out for a longer walk than normal. As long as your moving, as long as you are releasing those natural happy chemicals, those stress, reducing chemicals into your body through exercise, that's all that matters.
Top tip number seven is your diet. So really look at your eating patterns, the foods that you are eating. Because stress is an energy robbing force maintaining a diet that can replenish your energy is a really important part of combating it. So, as I said before, avoiding foods that are overly processed that are sugary and fatty, because these will make you sluggish and sleepy. So eating fruits and nuts, these are great energy giving foods, and drinking lots of water is really important as well, so look at your water intake. I speak to so many clients that hardly drink any water. As well as it being really bad for our bodies and our bodily systems it contributes to stress levels massively.
Top tip number eight is to take a holiday. I don't know what the statistics are, but I speak to so many people that don't take their holiday entitlement. I'm one of them. I only have two or three weeks annual holiday a year. That's usually August Bank holiday and two weeks at Christmas. That's because I love my job and I'm a bit of a workaholic, but I know so many people that do the same. So. Even if you can't go away on holiday, financially you can't do that have days out. Get out of the house, get away from those stressful situations. Do something fun. It really is important to just take yourself off and have that break, give your body that time to rest and recuperate so that when you come back, even if you're coming back into a stressful situation, you're rested, you're ready to face, whatever it is that's going on.
Top tip number nine is to visit with family. So spending time with people that you love is really important. We've talked about social contact. We've talked about being social creatures, but it's also important to spend time with those that are closest to us, whether that's going for tea, going out, shopping, whatever it might be.
Tip number 10 is to have a daily self care plan. We forget about self care. We are so busy looking after everybody else that we put ourselves at the bottom of our priority list. And for some people, they are not even on a priority list, they don't even think of themselves as important. And that will cause stress to build up. You can't do that forever. So it's really important that you start to see yourself as really important as being worthy. You've probably heard this before and I say to my clients all the time, if you go on holiday on a flight and you're flying and they go through the safety instructions, they always tell If the oxygen must fall from the ceiling, always put your own oxygen mask on before you attempt to put your child's on and that's because if you're not 100% healthy and right you can't then look after anybody else. and it's the same analogy. So that number 10. top power tip for reducing stress is to make yourself a priority, to have a plan every day to have a routine.
And there are three actionable steps that I want to share with you as well that you can do right now, today or tomorrow to start to reduce your stress. And that's number one is to write down two places that you consider your happy places. And so think about these whenever you feel stress is getting the better of you. So remember we said close your eyes and just imagine being in that place, using all of your senses.
Number two actionable step is to plan your next holiday. Even if it's going to be in five years' time, 10 years' time, the holiday of a lifetime, you can start to plan it in your head, you can get some photos of the places you might want to go. You could do a vision board. Just the act of thinking about it will start to lower your stress levels.
And actionable step number three is find an organization that you can volunteer for that you can help out, even if it's just once a week or once a month or twice a year. Even if it's not very often. find out about some of the charities or organizations that you would really like to get involved with. It might just be donating. time or food to a food bank. It might be donating clothes to a charity shop, something that you can do where you're giving. So those are your three actionable steps.
Before we finish today's episode, I'd like to share a really great stress management technique with you. And this is called progressive muscle relaxation. Now you may have heard of it. You may not have, but it's a really simple, safe, natural relaxation method that involves, tensing and relaxing your muscles muscle group by muscle group. And it really helps to relieve stress, to reduce it.
Anxiety and stress are known to make your muscle stiffen. You're holding yourself in a more tense state. So progressive muscle relaxation helps to reverse that cycle. It helps too. calm your mind down and it helps your body to loosen up. It's really effective for helping you to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and hit deep sleep, which we've already talked about is really important.
It has been found helpful in cases of chronic pain. So if you're somebody that suffers with chronic pain, it's a really good technique to use. It helps you to connect with your body. It helps you to be really aware of your body and about how it's feeling and where some of the tension may be.
So it's a really beneficial stress management technique. And it's really easy to do. You don't need any equipment, you just need to find a space where you won't be disturbed, where you'll be comfortable. And as I say, involves deliberately tensing up and relaxing individual muscle groups. And you squeeze each of those muscle groups for about five seconds as tightly as you can without causing pain or cramps.
And then you completely relax the muscles. And you can start with anywhere. Generally it starts with the hands and the arms, and then you work towards your head and down toward your feet. I like to start with the feet and work all the way up the body.
Your breath is really key to this technique. So as you inhale, you're going to tense the muscles, as you exhale, you're going to release them. So let's try that now. I want you to just get comfortable.
To take some deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth.
Just continue to breathe deeply and slowly.
And then just take the focus and attention down to your feet. And I want you to tense all of the muscles in your feet.
Now, take your focus and attention up through the ankles into the lower legs tense all of those muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up through the knees, into the upper legs, tense all of those muscles.
Now take your focus and attention up through the hips and the pelvis into the lower abdomen. Tense all of those muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up into the upper abdomen. Tense all of the tummy muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up into the chest. Tense all of the chest muscles.
Now take your focus and attention through to the back. Tense all of the back muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up into the shoulders. Tense all of the shoulder muscles.
Now take your focus and attention down into the arms.
Tense all of the muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention down through the wrists, into the hands and the fingers and the thumbs, tense all of those muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up into the neck. Tense all of the neck muscles.
Now take your focus and attention up into the face.
Tense all of the facial muscles.
Now, take your focus and attention up into the scalp. Tense those muscles.
And then just bring your focus and attention back to the breath.
And just slowly start to bring your focus and attention back into the physical body.
Maybe wiggle your fingers and your toes.
And just when you're ready, open your eyes.
I hope you're feeling really relaxed now. And I hope it showed you where you had areas of tension, where you were holding stress in your body.
Thanks for listening to this week's episode. I hope you found the discussion and the tips covered really helpful. Don't forget to subscribe, and if you enjoyed this episode, please do leave a rating and review and share it with your friends and family. Pop along to our website at thefullspectrumcentrelimited.com and join our self care and wellness newsletter club. You will receive our free 55 page printable self care guide and workbook.
Well, that's all for this episode, but I really look forward to seeing you next week. Take care and bye for now.