People & Culture Manager, Fran House gives her top tips on how to counter physical, mental and emotional stress
What is Stress?
Here’s the thing – stress is not necessarily a bad thing as some stress is actually good for you. But when it becomes a little too present in your everyday life, it will have a negative impact on your health.
Stress is a physical response to perceived danger. The body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline (increases heart rate), cortisol (stress hormone) and norepinephrine (fight or flight response) to prepare the body for physical action.
This causes a number of reactions in the body, from blood being diverted to muscles, to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion. That heart-pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
In today’s world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as acting quickly to a person running in front of our car. But when a state of stress occurs in an inappropriate situation, the body responds negatively. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is compromised. This leads to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for too long a period, it can be detrimental to our health.
It’s no secret that culture is hugely important to us at Mintivo and we work hard to ensure every single team member takes the time they need to switch off by not working late, not working over the weekend and taking regular breaks. It’s not just the working environment that can cause stress, however, so I’ve provided the team with some tips to help them cope with stress in their day to day lives. I would encourage anyone to try one of these tips each day and observe how much better you feel after 30 days. It takes 30 days for an action to become a habit, so don’t place too high an expectation on yourself just yet – look after yourself, think about practising self-care by taking some time out each day to do something that you enjoy.
Stress Relievers – Mental
- Write a list to keep up with what you want or need to do. Putting your thoughts down on paper will help to clear your mind until those thoughts are needed.
- Plan something to look forward to. Put a note on your fridge to remind yourself that it’s booked in.
- Read a new book or go back to the one you haven’t finished yet.
- Be kind to yourself. A little self-care goes a long way and will help you to help others too.
- Write down some future aspirations and goals. Perhaps create a mood board with pictures to visualise these goals.
- Engage in random acts of kindness – it makes you feel good to be kind to someone – whether that’s buying them a coffee or simply telling them they’ve done something that you think is awesome.
- Do NOTHING for five minutes.
Stress Relievers – Physical
- Try to take regular breaks from your screen, get up, move around, do some stretches and notice your posture.
- Go to bed a little earlier. Get away from your screen at least 30 minutes before you go to bed to combat the effects of blue light and get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night.
- Get outside into nature, take a walk or go for a run outside, the greener the better. Improve your mood with a change of scenery, fresh air and some Vitamin D from the sun.
- How much water do you drink each day? Being hydrated can improve low mood. Make sure you drink little and often, to ensure you get two litres per day. If you exercise and/or drink a lot of caffeine, you’ll need to increase that water intake a little.
- Engage in a digital detox when you can by doing something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen.
- Try a breathing technique such as the 4:4:4 ratio (inhale for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, exhale for four counts). As you practice, you can change this to a 4:8:8 ratio. Longer breath ratios help with relaxation.
- Start a new form of exercise or change your routine to get your fitness level up and turn on new muscles.