(Credit for Both Illustrations from The Science of Nutrition – Precision Nutrition)
What is Stress?
A stressor is something that disrupts homeostasis. For every stress, our body produces a stress response. Say, if we are in too warm condition, our body will be stressed and will sweat, get thirsty trying to return to our original body temperature and hydration level.
A stressor can be external like environment, injury or internal that we perceive or imagine. Life is full of many different kinds of negative situations and twists and turns, which keep us unsettled and stressed at times. Stress is primarily caused by too many whys, whats, whens and hows -which are questions in our minds. The effect of these thoughts on our physical health is well established. A large number of diseases today are psychosomatic, which means persistent negative emotions like stress, anger, hurt and mistrust manifest in the form of disease.
Here is a Wheel of stress diagram.
Notice where your stressors are at this time. Colour the wedges of the wheel to measure how much stress you feel in a given area. Notice that many stressors are about what your experience and how you perceive them.
A Stressor can be positive and negative. When we respond, recover and adapt well, stress makes us better. Good stress is short lived, infrequent and is over quickly. It can inspire us to take action, leaves us better than we were before. Bad stress lasts for long time, is toxic, negative, depressing and breaks us down.
Here are some tools that you can use to work on your stress.
1) Sphere of control – Start filling in it. What in your life do you have control over? What do you have some control over? What do you have no control over?
Sphere of Control
Highlight the items under total control. You are the boss of these things. Think about the items in ‘some control’. What could be done to bring them into control sphere. Let go of the items under ‘no control’. All you can do is manage and dynamically respond to these, using behaviours and other factors that you can control.
2) For chronic stress, ie. stress which is short term that we keep encountering throughout the day, Jack Feldmans lab at UCLA has done a great research and Physiological Sigh is a great tool to calm yourself down. Here’s how it works.
Take a deep breath with your nose preferably. Inhale again. That’s double inhale. And exhale everything through your mouth or nose. Make exhale longer than inhale. Or more vigorous. This is real time tool. So whenever you feel stressed – someone overtook you car badly or you have a presentation to make, take 5-6 Physiological Sighs. Your heart rate will go down and you will feel better.
3) Gratitude Diary – Before you go to bed every night, write down three things that you are grateful for, on that day. Gratitude journaling is a great way to relieve stress, as it will make you naturally more grateful and happy, which will lead to lower stress levels. Before going to bed, I write down three things I am most grateful for that day and also next day’s three most important tasks. This keeps me focused next day at my work.
4) Be part of a community. Whether you’re looking for motivation, support, or advice, your community will always be able to help you. Twitter is a great platform for this. The #100Days challenge is a live example as how collectively we logged 15000 workouts and motivated each other. Knowing that you’re in a community of like-minded people that share the same goal as you, allows you to talk about your journey and know that others are going through, or have been through the same things.
5) Build your Immunity. Stress often comes in the form of bacterial and viral infection and stress response is important. Release of Adrenaline is good for combating short term stress. And studies have shown that Wim Hof breathing primes the whole system for better cognition, makes system immune to combat infection. I have been doing it for last four years and have not fallen sick, or even a bad throat or fever. This is just a 11 minute breathing protocol and I would recommend to do this every day. Don’t do it while driving or near water. Here’s the link to do along with his instruction https://youtu.be/0BNejY1e9ik
6) Increase Stress Threshold – Do some physical activity that takes your heart rate to 80% of your Maximum Heart rate (Ask your doctor if you can do it). I do sprint to take my heart rate to that level. When we are at that threshold our pupils dilate and we literally have a tunnelled vision. That narrows down our field of vision. Deliberately go from tunnel vision to a panoramic vision. Observe more of your environment. See yourself in the environment you are in. It creates a calming effect on the mind. Doing this will increase your stress bearing threshold. Try doing once a week.
7) NSDR and Self Hypnosis – Meditation is a great tool but very difficult to do for most people. I do NSDR to destress and relax from time to time. This is a science based proved way to calm yourself and zero risk as you basically lie down and do what the instructor is saying. I use this protocol https://youtu.be/pL02HRFk2vo
8) Acute Stress or Long term stress should be dealt with immediately using medical advice. Consult a good Doctor.
9) Searching www.examine.com I found that Ashwagandha is a great supplement to take in case of acute stress. A number of studies suggest that it has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects; studies are mostly supportive of a notable effect of ashwagandha for this purpose, and it seems to reduce cortisol levels. Here’s the link https://examine.com/supplements/ashwagandha/ ( Always consult your doctor before supplementing )
10) Accept a higher power – You may or may not believe in God. But still, you have to believe in something. You just have to. Something bigger than us. Something bigger than we can even comprehend. There is an anchor in our life called Faith. You will realize, you have so little control over most of the things happening around you or to you. You only control how you react to the situation. You have to believe that there is a deeper purpose behind your suffering. The point of this belief is some way to override the mind. This technique changes our attitudes and feelings, which influences positively the situations we are in, as well as how others respond.