A Stressed Out Society
The last survey of Australian workers showed 61% of workers suffering from stress, with 41% at a level considered to be a significant health risk. Stress leave is costing Australian businesses millions of dollars a year, and it’s affecting our health, our relationships and our productivity.
But if you’ve got just 40 seconds, you can do something about it.
Big Things are Little Things. Little Things Are Big Things:
Almost everyone is under some degree of stress. The problem is that people think they can solve it with a big ticket item: a holiday, a weekend at a health retreat, or few days of doing nothing.
But the reality is that doing small things often, is far more effective than big things every now and then. You see, the human physiology is well equipped to deal with large stress in small bursts. The biggest problems come when we have moderate to high stress for an extended period of time without a break.
One small, consistent thing that helps is exercise.
Our stress response is designed to ignite the fight or flight response. Unfortunately, in the 21st Century, we are rarely fighting or flight-ing when we get the stress response. More likely, we are sitting at our desks or lying in bed at night thinking about the past or the future. When we exercise, we put the stress response to use by using it for what it was meant for - physical exertion. In this way, the stress chemicals are put to use instead of just pooling in our bodies.
The other, even more effective small thing is to engage the relaxation response.
Breathing Exercises: Not just for hippies
Breathing exercises can force our bodies to slow down and reverse the stress response. if you’ve never tried it before, here are some simple things to focus on.
Breath out for longer than you breathe in.
Breathing out activates our relaxation nervous system, while breathing in activates our panic nervous system. Breathe in for two, breathe out for three, and you’ll engage the relaxation response for longer.
Focus on right now
The object of the exercise is to also slow down our brains. If you can’t stop thinking about that deadline at work or those unpaid bills, focus on something that is happening right now. That might be the sound of the air conditioner in the background, or it might be the hum of the traffic outside. When we fire up our ‘real time input network’ it is impossible to think about the future or the past.
Count to Ten
Do the above and count ten breaths. This simple, 40 second activity will help to re-set your stress chemicals back closer to baseline, but will also give you greater clarity, help you think at your best, and also help you feel recharged so you can tackle the next part of the day with full intensity.
Try this just three times a day, or maybe more during stressful periods, and you’ll manage stress better over the long term.