In my clinic I regularly work with people who are finding that their stress is getting the better of them. Not only does it make people feel crummy emotionally, the research is mounting that it’s terribly bad for us physically.
Stress is known to cause changes in the way our bodies function. Our immune system becomes less effective, and our internal repair systems work less well. Stress also has an effect on our digestion, our hormone levels and our sleep. All of these things combined make spending the majority of our working lives immersed in stress almost a ‘perfect storm’ when it comes to developing chronic illnesses.
New research has found that stress can cause illnesses we’d never expect.
Last year it was reported that prescriptions for diabetes are costing the NHS over £1 billion. The number of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has doubled in the last 20 years. 4.6 million people are now living with the illness and over 100,000 of them were diagnosed in the last 12 months. Type 2 diabetes is now being labelled a ‘lifestyle disease’, as there are several behaviours that are directly linked to the increased likelihood of being diagnosed with Type 2. We are told to be mindful of our sugar intake, to work to reduce our weight and to be more physically active. However, new research is being published which shows that the ‘eat less: move more’ mantra is incomplete.
A 22-year longitudinal study of women in France found that the people who actually most at risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes are those whose work is stressful or ‘mentally tiring’. More specifically, those who said that their job was “very” mentally taxing at the start of the study were 21% more likely to develop the condition than women with “little or not mentally tiring work” even after the study controlled for obesity or lack of exercise. That’s a significant difference by anyone’s terms. Of course it’s not just work that’s a source of stress in our lives and perhaps it’s the area we feel like we are least able to change. However, what we can change is how we deal with stress and how we let it affect us.
Everyone has different ways of handling stress; mostly they’re skills we learned in childhood and adolescence. Think about how your parents and immediate family handle stress and then how you do. Do you notice the similarities? The good news is that we can unlearn maladaptive ways of coping – overeating, drinking, shouting at the dog – and learn new, more helpful ones!
5 breaths to bust stress.
Stress often happens when we get caught up in worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. If we can train ourselves to spend more time in the present moment generally everything is okay and we aren’t stressed. However, when we are mired right in the middle of something stressful we are less able to access our resources which will help us move through the state which is a double whammy of difficulty.
You’ve probably heard the old adage of ‘count to 10 before opening your mouth’ when you’re angry? Well to blow away stress, it’s even more simple. All you need to do is breathe 5 deep complete breaths. With each breath focus on one of your senses, what can you hear, see, feel, smell and taste? Use the entire of each breath, both in and out, to really focus in on one sense to the exclusion of all the others.
You’ll notice that your stress levels are considerably diminished by the end of the exercise.
If you’d like to learn real, practical ways to handle your stress, get in touch for a free 20 minute phone consultation.