Take it easy and live without stress for a week
Liz Connor finds out how relaxing more can help us physically and mentally
NO matter how resilient we think we are, stress is something that can easily take its toll over time. From feeling under pressure at work to juggling too much at home, there are plenty of reasons why you might regularly struggle to switch off at the end of a long day.
Here, GP Kim Glass explains the full extent to which living stress-free for seven days can have a positive impact on your health, both physically and mentally.
1. Better sleep
It’s everyone’s worst nightmare on a Sunday evening. Tossing, turning and staring at the ceiling for hours, struggling to drift off peacefully because all you can think about is tomorrow’s to-do list.
As a result, Glass explains that you’re often left feeling unrefreshed, grouchy and exhausted during the day. Not only is this unpleasant to deal with, it can be dangerous to your health over time, as consistent poor sleep can put you at risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
“If you’re heading to bed stress-free, you’re much more likely to fall into a deeper, uninterrupted sleep, meaning you will wake up refreshed, energised and ready to attack the day ahead,” says Glass.
2. Improved diet
In times of stress, it’s not unusual to turn to sugary or high-fat foods as a way of coping.
“When we’re under pressure, our brains are wired to crave comforting foods,” says Glass. “We’re likely to want to snack on chocolate and other treats which give us dopamine, otherwise known as the happy, reward hormone.
“In a world without stress, we can be more aware of our diet. We shouldn’t crave sweet treats and will feel more motivated to prepare healthy meals, so our diet would become more regulated, more nutritious and healthier.”
3. Clearer mental health
“Not addressing stress can result in continued strain on the body and mind, which can contribute to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression,” says Glass.
She compares stress to a car being driven continuously in the fast lane, result- in wear and tear on the engine. “When you’re stress-free, you often think much more clearly, find yourself better equipped to make the right decisions, and have a much more positive outlook on what’s going on around you — both at work and at home.”
4. Less stress on the heart
Chronic stress exposes our body to unhealthy levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase the risk of heart problems. “A week away from stress would reduce the strain on our heart so it’s important to consider rest and relaxation when get tough,” advises Glass.
“If you’re suffering from stress, it’s helpful to check in, to ensure there are no deeper health problems occurring, such as high blood pressure or unhealthy levels of cholesterol.”
5. Increased productivity
“Stress and productivity can be a vicious cycle. Take work, for example — it can cause stress, which can lead to absenteeism, putting us behind and fuelling more stress.
“Elsewhere, you may have found yourself putting off heading to the gym, cuting ting the lawns, or other tasks you usually face headon . “A stress-free week is sure to increase your productivity, make challenges more achievable and leave you ready to defeat whatever task lies in front of you.”
Dr Glass’s tips on how to better manage stress...
Try mindfulness, meditation and yoga: “Some people find that meditative approaches can help reduce stress and anxious thoughts, making you calmer and helping to relax your mind.”
Reduce alcohol and cafthings feine intake: “While people might turn to a couple of drinks or more coffee to help them cope through difficult periods, this will only make them feel worse in the longterm.”
Know your limits: “It can be hard to say ‘no’ but it’s important to know when you are at your maximum whether at work or at home. Don’t take on too much and ensure you get enough rest.”
Make time for the things you enjoy: “If you enjoy meeting friends for a coffee, going to the cinema, or something else, make sure you allow yourself to do so.”
Make time for physical activity: “The benefits of physical activity on both the body and mind are clear. Go for a run in the park, a swim or simply head out on a brisk walk to help clear and refresh your mind.”
If you’re continuing to struggle though it’s always worth speaking to a GP who can help you to explore talking therapies.
“In a short amount of time it’s possible to relieve the feelings of stress, and the benefits both mentally and physically will be clear to see - whether you find yourself eating more healthily, being more productive at home and at work, or simply spending more time with friends,” says Glass.
“Everybody gets stressed, but it’s important to recognise in yourself when things become difficult, so you take the necessary steps that are right for you.”
CHILL OUT: Banishing stress can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.