Today is Stress awareness day, and we asked a guest writer to blog about the effects of stress, and ways to cope and unwind. Jenny Carboni is an Advanced Clinical Massage and Dermalogica Skin Care Therapist who runs her own private practice Cornerstone Therapies in Godalming Surrey (close to our head offices in Guildford!) , which is one of the UK’s leading health and well-being practices.
We picked Jenny’s brain about stress, and the effect it can have on our sleep, read below for some top well-being tips. If you are looking for further advise or some relaxation treatments please visit Jenny’s website
Should stress be seen as a good or bad thing?
Stress is actually a good thing in healthy doses, it gives us drive to get up each morning, get on with our lives and move forward. It allows us to create, play, work and enjoy life.
However there are always times that come along that mean that the equilibrium will tip and stress becomes an issue by causing unease within the body, and we often see this when the body/brain connection no longer works in harmony. When we have a large dose of stress in our lives we are really asking the body to work in a constant state of fight or flight, which means we are permanently about to run away or attack the things that come up for us to deal with.
The things that trigger this over production of stress can be anything from being stuck in a traffic jam, a big deadline, trying to get the kids to school on time, right up to the longer term aspects of life such as abuse, grief, divorce and separation. It’s different for everyone and because it’s personal no one can say that their stress is more pertinent that their neighbours.
Can you recognise heightened stress levels within the body?
The vast majority of people will feel that the overdose of stress causes problems be putting the four major elements of the mind body relationship out of synchronicity; mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Mentally one may find that the mind cannot switch off, anxiety can start to imbed and there may be more blue days than sunny ones. Emotionally people may find that they are snapping at people who irritate them more than normal and physically it’s common to see people suffer with more neck and head pain, stomachs that never feel settled as well as lower immunity to seasonal coughs and colds.
How can you prevent heightened stress levels causing a problem?
Heightened stress levels cannot always be avoided and the best way to deal with them is to manage time and your environment in the best way that you can.
Time is sometimes the best way to grasp hold of something tangible that you can control and have a say over. It’s often a good to sit down with a piece of paper and your diary for 15 minutes a day and simply list the things that are causing the stress to overflow. Look at your list and see what can be taken out or simplified.
Your environment needs to be soothing and able to give you restorative strength. The number one thing you can do is declutter your personal space. Either bin your clutter or give it to charity. As William Morris said “Keep only what is beautiful or useful”.
Be nice to yourself! Make sure your bed linen is fresh and laundered each week, that your pillows are right for you so you can get a restorative night’s sleep and that the mattress that you sleep on suits your body. Invest in scented candles and a small bunch of flowers to fill your home with smells and colours that calm you. Make your bathroom a haven by adding fluffy towels and bath oils that can sooth the senses.
How can we try to achieve a perfect night’s sleep and switch off to the daily grind?
A perfects night sleep comes from a calm body and mind.
Early Bird Dinner! Look after your body whilst stress is a predominant factor in your life by avoiding stimulants in your diet. Caffeine, smoking, alcohol are commonly named as the big three things to get rid of, but there are others to watch out for spicy foods, chocolate and processed foods. Try eating earlier in the evenings and bring whole foods and replenishing hydration into your life so your body can digest well before you go to bed.
Exercise – Exercise such as running or heavy gym work can increases the stress factors and slightly changing your exercise routines can really help. Exercises such as walking, restorative yin yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi all relax the body whilst keeping it strong, supple and fit. Try exercising either in the morning or at lunch time, so you avoid overloading the body in the evenings.
Work Free Zone – Work should stay at work and evenings spent emailing and phoning should be a rarity. Make a rule that you only work the evenings in exceptional circumstances, that means when your foot hits the door mat your brain knows that it can start to calm down.
You time – If the children need to be bathed and in bed by 8, work out a timetable to make that happen; it’s great for them to be in bed early as they need a lot of rest as they grow. Once your evenings are reclaimed, you have the perfect time to enjoy the relaxation that you deserve. Two or three times a week run a warm bath and add some beautiful oils, light some candles, and enjoy the warm glow rather than a strong overhead light. Wrap yourself in a nightwear that makes you feel great, and robes that are soft on the skin.
Turn off the TV – Try to have evenings during the week that are free of TV. Download some audio books, or pick up that book you have been trying to finish for the past six months, and immerse yourself in a great story. Also change your music in the evenings to a gentler art form, a classical or acoustic playlist, this can help bring a sense of peace.
Laughter is the best medicine – Don’t forget to play! Laughter is one of the biggest healers and it reduces stress phenomenally. Whatever it is that makes you giggle, go do that regularly and make sure it’s in the diary so you make dedicated time to play.
Are there any bad habits that people should steer clear of in order to de stress before sleep?
Make your bedroom your sleep-room. Clear it of all things electrical, from TV’s, phone chargers to radios. If the electrical clutter is around you as you sleep your mind simply won’t switch off to the best of it’s ability. The investment of £20 in a small alarm clock and keeping the phone in another room will be more than worth it. Your sheets should always be 100% cotton or linen so that you skin can breathe properly as you sleep and make sure that your pillows are made of a natural fabric. Invest time in making this the space where your body and mind can come together again, reconnect and restore.