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Wellness with Natalie: Are you stressed out?

Stress is a state, not an illness. Stress is the experience of physical, chemical or emotional factors that cause physical or emotional tension. Just reading that probably stressed you out, right? You should know that a little stress is not always bad. A little stress is motivating and it can help you perform better. Think butterflies before giving a speech motivating you to do your best.

Constantly living in emergency mode, however, is not good. So if acute stress is short-term with a clearly defined beginning and end, what we really want to avoid is chronic stress. Chronic stress is long-term and prolonged with no clear ending. Late nights, heightened emotions, impossible deadlines, too much on your plate are all indicators that your lifestyle is hurtling you towards chronic stress.

Both acute and long-term stress trigger a physiological response in our bodies. Our cortisol level increases, this is our stress hormone - also known as fight or flight hormone. Necessary for immediate danger, not so good as a perpetual state. Long-term stress triggers constantly elevated cortisol. This leads to increased fat storage, emotional changes such as irritability, anxiety and depression. Many people also give in to stress-induced eating or have problems sleeping at night.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Excessive and prolonged stress may cause illness to develop and cause some pretty serious changes in your health. You may experience headaches, insomnia, develop asthma or gastrointestinal problems. Stress may lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Stress also accelerates the aging process.

Please recognise that you may not always be able to control the stresses in your life but you can control your response to stress.

So how do you manage stress before stress manages you? Here are 10 simple tips to help manage and reduce your stress level:

1) Exercise regularly, incorporating cardio, weight training and yoga

2) Eat more veggies and less sugar

3) Infuse joy into your life by doing more of what you love to do

4) Get more sleep

5) Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

6) Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation

7) Talk to someone in confidence

8) Keep a stress diary

9) Manage your time

10) Practice self-care by going for a massage or a reiki session

This article was written by Natalie Murray based on literature research jointly conducted with Dr Kerriann Mah-Lee.

Originally published by Loop

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