The emotional strain and tension caused by day-to-day living has been linked to various diseases, which all of us could become prone to under the wrong conditions. Heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, diabetes, cancer and more. A weakened immune system can also be a result of stress, which is needed to fight off these other possible complaints.
It is believed that men are the ones experiencing stress at higher levels, which can, of course, come in various guises. Anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, depression, anger, irritability and restlessness are all signs of stress and can lead to unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol use, drug abuse, overeating and relationship breakdowns.
We all know stress can be harmful, it presses biological buttons involuntary inside us, which can make our moods change quickly and drastically, but it can be different, we can change this, we can counterattack. Stress is sly, it can creep up on you. Your body and mind will get used to that negative feeling, and it will start to feel familiar, even normal. Unfortunately, we sometimes don't notice how much it's affecting us until it's too late.
Take a look at the top 10 tips that the MESOA team recommend for fighting back against stress.
1. Regular Exercise.
Exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels. Physical activity will release dopamine and serotonin into your body, which will improve your mood. Exercise also plays a crucial role for people who deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, whereby releasing your pent-up anger and tension feels like a win and helps calm the brain. But it doesn't have to be a heavy gym session or marathon run, a simple brisk walk in the fresh air will do wonders for your mood.
2. Sleep well.
Stress and anxiety often lead to insomnia and sleep problems, but by the same token, sleep is the number one thing your body needs to relieve stress. 6-8 hours a night of rest can help your body recuperate and recover from the stress you're feeling and can help your mind prepare for the days and trials ahead. In addition, some simple exercises before bed like deep breathing, mediation and a hot bath with magnesium salts will help you rest.
3. Eat well.
Good nutrition is key. A healthy diet can give your body the energy it needs to stay focused. Eating a balanced diet will help our bodies manage the tension, and we should avoid caffeine and other stimulants that might promote stress and sleeplessness. Avoid alcohol, which might deepen any depression you may be feeling and choose low sugar, whole and natural foods. Try and eat a balance of fruit and vegetables… go for all the colours of the rainbow!
Mediation is perfect for calming the body and the brain. Switching off from the busy world for just 10 minutes a day in a quiet spot will be so beneficial for you, your mind and your mood. You may want to spend this time doing yoga, listening to calming music or simply lying flat on the floor in peace. Wherever you choose to spend your time, close your eyes, relax your muscles, breathe and let go. Take yourself off to a happy memory of yours or do a visualisation exercise and envisage your perfect day. Think about where you are, who you're with, what the weather is doing, what can you see in the distance. Relax your mind and slip into a world of calm where you can relax and unwind. Do this daily, maybe at night before bed, then drift off thinking about tomorrow's adventure!
5. Solve the cause.
Thinking about the problem that's giving you the tension and the stress can help relieve it. Dive deep into the issues you feel are affecting your mood and try to migrate away from the triggers to solve the issue. Talk to your boss if it's a work issue, talk to your partner if you need to. Confronting the matter may be a scary thought, but it will 100% help to face it head-on.
6. Avoid stressful situations.
We can't always control our surroundings and the things that can provoke our stress levels, but we can be in control of how we react to them. Being stuck in a traffic jam is not our favourite pastime and can create chronic stress, but we can sit, relax, listen to our favourite tunes to pass the time. Accept that there are events that you cannot control, if there's nothing you can do to fix the situation, don't get stressed over it, it's out of your hands. However, if there are people in your life causing you to feel stress, you can definitely fix that. Stop spending time with them, keep them at a distance and look past the faults you see that affect you.
7. Don't take on too much.
We can often be blamed for creating the stress in our lives by overworking ourselves and always saying yes when the answer should be no, or not now. We cannot overpromise on things that will negatively affect us, things that will risk our health. We must give ourselves time to do jobs, to complete tasks, to get back to people, many times there is no need to rush. Take it easy on yourself.
8. Glass half full.
The sunny side of life is apparently where it all happens, but the sat nav doesn't always take us there. The old cliché is a good one, and having this mindset in your daily life, always being positive and living in the present, can make the world of difference to your being. A negative mind can make even the most minor irritation a huge issue, so always try and look for the plus in any situation. And remember, whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's always refillable.
9. Savour your victories.
All the little things matter. The smallest thing can cause stress, so why can't it ease stress too. When you accomplish something, maybe a personal goal, you finish a project, you nail that 5km, you cook a mega lasagne, tell yourself well done, pat yourself on the back, smile in the mirror and celebrate the win!
10. Talk it out.
People. People and connections are the things we need in times of hardship. So when you feel the black cloud coming over, reach out to a friend or family member and talk it out. Relationships are essential to a healthy lifestyle, sharing your time with those you care for is important for you and for them. They are especially significant when you're experiencing stress, and an encouraging voice, even for a small while, can change your life's view.
The bottom line
Stress, anxiety and depression can arise at any time in our lives, at any age. As a modern man, you have to stand up against it, you do not let it rule you. If you feel the pressure creeping up, catch it fast, do something right now in this moment to stop it from escalating into something bigger that will affect you.
Take yourself and your mind out of the situation, relax, get some alone time or meet up with friends, distance yourself from the thing that's causing the pain. Remember it's all about you, it's your body, it's your health, it's your story… you are in charge of the playbook.