Are you easily affected by stress?
I’m writing this as I prepare to head off on a four-week holiday in Europe, which should be a pretty exciting time. But with this trip looming, I’ve got a heap more work to do and a lot less time to do it, as well as lots of last-minute planning and packing. All of this has inevitably caused some unwanted stress and as a result, my skin has broken out, I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been waaaay more emotional than usual. It got me thinking, stress can really affect your body and a lot of the time it’s unavoidable, right?
Well, I had a chat to performance and health coach, Laura Moore, who founded Uppy, a specialised service that empowers women to maximise their performance both personally and professionally. She explains exactly what causes stress, how it affects your body and how it can best be managed. It couldn’t have come at a better time!
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Causes of stress for women
It turns out the main lifestyle factors that cause stress for women are personal finance, family/relationship issues and health.
Personal finance – With the costs of living in Australia only getting more and more expensive, “There is even more pressure to perform in the workplace to ensure our salaries align with the lifestyle we desire or we are at least comfortable with,” says Laura. At the same time, the unstable economy means we are faced with even more pressure and stress – with headline-making closures of big manufacturers such as Ford and Holden, companies have had to make redundancies regardless of performance. Laura explains, “We are constantly living in fear that at any point we could either be replaced by a newer more efficient model, or made obsolete and left with no means to pay the bills or keep the lifestyle we have become accustomed to.” Stress city!
Family/relationship issues – With pressures at work inevitably comes pressures at home. Laura tells me, “Finding the time and space both physically and mentally to give each area of our lives the attention they require can be extremely challenging, and inevitably it becomes a constant worry trying to achieve or maintain this.”
Health – Health is and should be a priority in all of our lives. Unfortunately, there are a heap of conflicting messages on just how to maintain good health, making it extremely confusing. Laura explains, “We can often end up doing the wrong things and blaming ourselves when we don’t get the results. This adds another layer of stress in the form of guilt.”
Stress and the body
Stress can cause a chain reaction for women which affects both the mind and the body. Laura lists the ways stress can present itself:
- Weight gain
- Erratic energy
- Low mood
- Poor digestion
- Irregular or painful periods
- Brain fog
- Increased injuries and common illnesses
Exercise and stress
Exercise is a really effective way to help reduce and relieve stress. Exercise releases endorphins which positively impact the way you feel, plus it’s a great way to create some ‘you’ time and switch off your brain. Laura tells me, “Doing something good for yourself is a great positive reinforcement tool.” She does recommend listening to your body though, as the wrong exercise can actually end up causing more stress (eek!). “If you find yourself unusually fatigued or sore after exercise, or your results start to plateau or go in the opposite direction, then this might be an indication that you’re doing the wrong exercise for your body at this time.” If this is the case, try swapping one or two of your workouts and see how your body responds.
Strategies for coping with stress
Laura shares her top three strategies for coping with stress:
1. Get clear about and connected to what is really important to you and what you really want – Laura suggests to identify your basic values (whether they are honesty, security, health etc.) and keep these at the forefront of your mind. She says this will help to shift your perception of the stressors in your life and reduce their impact.
2. Tune in and listen to your body – Let your body tell you what it needs! Laura reckons our bodies are pretty wise and they will usually send us a signal when something’s up. Once again, this awareness will help to stop stress from having such a negative impact as we’ll be able to understand our triggers and how to manage them.
3. Create boundaries – Laura stresses (no pun intended) the importance of allowing yourself time to switch off and relax. Making ‘you’ time non-negotiable will lead to “better utilisation of your time and energy, and therefore reduced stress” says Laura.
Thankfully, I think I’ll be getting plenty of ‘me’ time sailing around the Greek Islands, am I right?
What do you do to reduce and manage the stress in your life?