How often do you feel stressed-out? That daily pressures - worries about bills, work deadlines, relationships - are getting to you? Let's face it, life is so hectic we're all affected by stress to some degree, but how we manage high-pressure situations determine our ability to cope and overcome potential difficulties.
Stress isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact it can be the spice of life. We've all felt the euphoria of taking up a new challenge, when the adrenaline is flowing through the body and we feel ready to tackle just about anything. Without challenges, we'd become pretty dull and boring.
This feeling isn't new. In primitive times the challenge was one of survival - described as the "fight or flight syndrome" - when faced with danger, say from a wild animal. Within seconds the body's full energy potential is realised to deal with the threat.
Today the threats are different. The challenges are more likely to be emotional than physical, and the stress response helps us tackle potential problems more effectively.
As long as we can keep the pressure and anxiety levels under control, we are more likely to give our best performance - whatever the situation.
We all have a stress threshold, a point when challenges become too much to cope with.
When the level becomes damaging, our health and fitness can become affected. We may become irritable, tearful, develop a severe headache or tummy problem or start over-eating.
One of the best ways to deal with stress-overload is through exercise. When I feel particularly wound-up, I go for a run. Getting out in the fresh air and physically stretching myself helps to reduce pent-up tension and clear my mind, so I'm better able to deal with life's ups and downs.
There are lots of ways to reduce the effects of stress. If you have too much on, learn to say "no". If you are burdened with worries, share them. Try to be more organised so you're not always in a rush. Make a list of priorities and you may have to delegate or put something off for another day. Above all, learn to recognise your stress signs, like tiredness or a bad temper, and make time for yourself. Simple treats like a soak in the bath or a walk in the park work wonders to restore your energy so you're better able to cope. We can tolerate different levels of stress, so learn to identify what's right for you. By figuring out your stress threshold, life will become better and the high-pressure times can be the most exciting and challenging of all.
During times of stress it's so easy to reach for "quick-fix" stimulants and food which offer temporary relief. Coffee, chocolate, fizzy drinks and sugary foods give us an instant burst of energy, but have you noticed how this quickly subsides leading to tiredness and irritability? In fact stimulants like coffee, tea and foods containing refined sugar are the last things you should have during times of stress as they upset the blood sugar balance, causing highs and lows. Much better are simple carbo-hydrates like fruit, or complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, nuts, beans or lentils. So next time you feel stressed, don't reach for coffee and chocolate - grab a piece of fruit and some nuts.
CHECK YOUR STRESS
If two or more of these symptoms apply to you, your stress levels are probably too high and you need to take action.
l You never have enough time to complete one task before rushing on to the next.
l You feel constantly angry or irritable.
l You're often close to tears.
l You're skipping meals or over-eating because of worry.
l You often suffer from …