Tuesday 25 October 2016

Why stress is the best positivity in life?


You should now try to say yes to the stress. Positive stress can bring you some valuable feedbacks.

While unmanaged, stress can even kill. A study of 10,000 workers published last week found that those in high-pressure jobs die younger. But before you hand in your notice and book a one-way ticket to Hawaii, there's some good news too: those in stressful jobs who get to manage their own workflow were actually found to be healthier.

"Adrenaline helps get things done," says Dr Michael Sinclair, a psychologist and the author of The Little ACT Workbook. "However, if stress is left unchecked — and we don't learn effective ways to handle it — it can be dangerous."

Aseem Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist, adds: "Chronic — not acute — stress is the problem. Chronic levels of raised cortisol are linked to a number of conditions: type 2 diabetes, heart disease. It also affects genes that control the ageing process." A recent study by the University of Nottingham even found that women with higher levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol in their hair were significantly less likely to conceive through IVF than women with lower levels.

So how can we learn to handle stress, and curb our cortisol?

1. Don't Fight It...

"Stress is an inevitable part of modern life," says Sinclair. "We need to accept it because eradication attempts actually exacerbate it." One of the worst tension-cutting tactics is to distract yourself. "When we have worries on our minds we try to push them away — by turning on the TV or using drugs and alcohol to block them out — but that's like throwing a tennis ball against the wall: it will come back to you."

2. ...Categorise it

Rather than trying to clear your brain's over-loaded inbox, instead try to categorise its contents. As Sinclair puts it: "Notice your thoughts, rather than trying to change them." He suggests a technique called "defusion" — distancing yourself from your thoughts and feelings: "I am having the thought that I am going to lose my job" rather than "I am going to lose my job". Another strategy is imagining your thoughts as a radio, currently broadcasting doom. Imagine turning the volume down rather than switching it off.

3. Get some headspace

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius advised us to "dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them". Now, 1,800 years on, people you'd pay to avoid at parties bang on about the powers of mindfulness. Still, they have a point. "Even doing two minutes of deep-breathing four times a day will help with heart-rate variability," says Malhotra. "Sit in a quiet room and breathe in for five seconds, then breathe out for five seconds." There is, of course, an app for that: Headspace.

4. Stem behaving badly

We all have our coping mechanisms. But most are self-destructive. Stress often leads to excessive behaviour. Over-eating. Under-eating. Taking the edge off a day with a whisky (or worse). The tricky part is breaking this cycle. "First, you need to check in on yourself," says Sinclair. "What habits are you turning to for stress- management? These behaviours can be self-perpetuating: you overeat so you feel worse and eat another slice of cake. You need to take a pragmatic view: thinking before an action, is this helpful for me long-term?" If alcohol is your crutch, Malhotra advises moderation and that you never drink on your own.

5. Get moving, or get down and dirty

Exercise can be a potent stress-buster but it doesn't work for everyone. Yoga, Pilates and walking especially get the Sinclair stamp of approval and Malhotra thinks some of that exertion should be of the bumping uglies variety. "Middle-aged men who have sex twice a week have a lower risk of heart disease than those who only do it twice a month."

6. Hit the sack

Stress and sleep-deprivation are often bedfellows. But not getting your seven hours a night of nod takes its toll. After 29 hours without sleep recently, I was shaking, all my muscles ached and my head thumped. "Physical manifestations are residual," explains Sinclair. "If you're up all night, your body is producing too much cortisol, so it'll still be pumping around the body." Quality as well as quantity matters, so put in ear-plugs, invest in a good bed (Warren Evans are mattress maestros) and make sure your room is dark or wear an eye mask.

7. Get felt up

Massage can help remove all that tension and tightness in your muscles, which in turn can aid sleep. Try CitySwish, a mobile beauty service that can send a masseur to your office.

8. Pet the Pooch

A dog is the animal world's hug. In the same way that an embrace makes your body release oxytocin (and supposedly lowers blood pressure), so does cuddling up with a canid. "It's a natural stress-relief," says Sinclair. "Oxytocin is the natural care-giving hormone, and stroking a dog will give you that warm, fuzzy feeling." So if you're prepared for fish breath, walks in the rain and to rearrange your entire life for a being who'll never know your name, take a trip to the Dogs' Trust. And there's always borrowmydoggy.com.

9. Learn from Lassie

We can also heed a lesson from our four-legged friends. They are always shake-the-booty ecstatic to see us. Their love comes without conditions. They don't see our flaws. Sinclair argues we should show ourselves "the same self-kindness and compassion. Talk to yourself like you would a friend rather than being self-critical."

10. Plan ahead

Sinclair believes in setting simple goals to keep balance in your life. "Identify what really matters to you. If you think, ‘I want to be more connected to my family', commit to sitting down on Wednesday at 7:30pm and having a meal with them." Most importantly, don't make your job your whole identity — that's when the pressure to perform feels insurmountable.



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