It’s been said that 90% of disease are caused by stress. According to McKinsey Health Institute, globally one in four employees are experiencing signs of burnout. Stress hormones weaken the immune system, increase aging and the risk of (chronic) disease.
Here are some common signs of stress:
- You often get a cold or headache
- Trouble sleeping
Chances are your breathing is relatively shallow and high up in your chest rather than deep in your belly.
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritable or moody
- Mood swings (e.g., crying, bursts of anger).
- Difficulty concentrating
- Your thoughts are going a mile a minute.
Most likely you’re not as productive or creative as you normally are. And you might find it difficult to relax.
Using alcohol, food, shopping, gaming or social media to unwind and destress (or distract yourself) is another indicator that your stress level is out of control. These are all red flags.
Please note this list is not conclusive. You might experience other signs of stress or a looming burnout. Trust your body and what it tries to tell you. If you stop to listen, you’ll know when you’re putting a strain on yourself.
The problem with stress is that when you’re functioning on adrenaline it seems you’re doing fine. Your body does its utmost to keep you functioning—as it believes you’re in danger—and it will provide you with (false) energy to get you through the day.
If you’re stressed, you need to do something not just to relax, but to get rid of the stress hormones you’ve build up in your body. You need to tell your body that you are safe.
Things you can do to combat stress:
1. Ground yourself.
Doing so helps you become aware of your body and what it’s trying to tell you. Many of us spend most of our day in meetings, behind computers or on the phone. As a result, the majority of our energy and focus is centered in our head. There’s a reason we find it hard to shut down our thoughts.
Grounding helps you spread that energy and focus evenly throughout your body. You can listen to this complimentary 3-minute audio-recording to ground yourself right now.
When you’re grounded, you’ll be able to pick up on the signs your body is giving you, so you can take better care of yourself and steer clear from stress in an early stage.
2. Take three deep breaths into your belly.
Doing so signals to your nervous system that all is well and it helps your body relax. It helps you shift from fight-or-flight mode into relaxation.
This only works if you actually shift your breathing from your chest to your belly. It’s probably easier to do when you’re already grounded. Placing a hand on your lower belly helps deepen your breathing.
3. Give yourself a proper lunch-break.
I know your to-do list is probably endless and it might feel counterintuitive to take time out for a proper lunch, but I assure you it’s time that will win itself back.
Taking even a short twenty-minute break helps increase your concentration and your energy level. It also has a positive effect on your productivity and creativity. Several years ago, I remember reading about research which concluded that people who took a forty-five-minute lunch break were more productive than those who continued working and ate behind their desk.
While you think you are saving time by not having a lunch break, you are actually slowing down your productivity so much that your friend who went for lunch and perhaps a quick walk will still get more done during that day.
4. Do something just for fun.
If you like massages, schedule time for that. If you enjoy singing, dancing, painting or any other creative endeavor, give yourself permission to do that. If you long to spend (more) time with family or friends, make that a priority. All these things—relaxation, creativity, connection—will help you wind down and release the stress hormones you’ve been building up.
5. Immerse yourself in nature, especially around trees.
Forest bathing was studied in Japan and being around trees showed a lot of positive effects on health. To be clear: this means no running or workouts. Just quiet contemplation around trees. The oils that trees emit are shown to support our immune system, lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones. It lowers depression and increases your energy.
I realize doing these things takes time. Time you probably think you don’t have. Think being the operative word here.
The belief that you need to work harder to get better results is simply not true.
When you’re stressed and working long hours, you’re less effective and efficient. Your productivity and creativity go down the drain. Something as simple as a nap increases your ability to solve problems and come up with a solution.
There are many cases that show a shorter workweek leads to an increase in productivity, quality, revenue, health & well-being, and (job) satisfaction.
This is the moment to take action and make sure the new year will be happier, healthier, more successful and less stressed. 🙂
What will you do today to take better care of yourself?
If you want to have all the energy you need to live a life you love, then my book Radiant is perfect for you.
You can get a copy here or at your favorite bookstore.
Have a day full of energy and inspiration!
PS Radiant is a great last-minute gift for anyone wanting more energy, a better work-life balance, healthy boundaries and increased productivity & creativity!