Fight the Winter Blues!
After the excitement of the festive season, the winter blues can begin to sink in at the beginning of January and a lot of us struggle with getting back to work and daily routines. In this article I intend to bust the winter blues and give a few pointers to help stay calm, focused and in control.
Stress is a technique evolved by the body to activate our fight-or-flight responses. In times of extreme danger a chemical reaction occurs designed to keep us alert and ready for action, however this production of cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline also triggers an increase in sweating and muscular tension.
For most of us, life threatening situations are less frequent than they were to our ancestors (hopefully), our sources of stress now-a-days come in other forms such as, work pressures, health complications and financial difficulties. These kinds of challenges are often long term, and keep us exposed to a prolonged state of stress which our body is not designed to handle. Over time this state can lead to exhaustion, depression and serious cognitive issues. An increase in negative habits can also be associated with long periods of extended pressure such as smoking, increased alcohol consumption, lack of appetite and excessive eating. In order to effectively manage stress we must address the root cause of our anguish, however here are some simple relief techniques which can help us all to RELAX.
- Be Positive: It sounds silly, but a positive outlook has a huge impact on the way we feel and our interaction with others. A study in Michigan asked 30,000 participants to rate their level of perceived stress and the impact they felt it made to their health. Those who perceived a harmful physical impact due to stress were 43% more likely develop health problems or even die during the study period. Now we all know this experiment could have been grasping at straws but there is an important message. It’s not all doom and gloom! Remember the power of your own positive outlook. This time of year is one to celebrate, spend time with your loved ones, make happy memories and take time to just be in the moment.
- Get a Massage! This method of stress relief is not only enjoyable, but promotes the reduction of our stress related hormones. Both body and head massage are known to reduce stress related symptoms. By using a variety of speed, pressure and motions we can relieve tension and break down muscular adhesion (knots). Body based massage is known to lower blood pressure, enhance blood circulation and induce relaxation. Cranial massage is a method more aimed towards stress relief, by applying appropriate pressure to the thin muscles on the scalp we can successfully treat an acute area that holds a great deal of tension.
- Exercise: Aerobic exercise benefits the body on a neuro-chemical level, this form of exercise reduces and flushes the body of our stress related hormones. All forms of exercise also stimulate the production of endorphins within the brain. These are our body’s natural painkillers and our “happy” chemicals. Our most potent safeguard against the ravages of stress involves a lifestyle focussed towards wellbeing. By balancing good nutrition, regular exercise and rest we foster our positive mental attitude. Where possible by applying this approach to a work/life balance we can begin to control our exposure to unplanned stressors.
- You Time: Often we can feel out of control to change stressful scenarios, this can result in a dramatic increase in our anxiety and pressure. Don’t forget to take time on a regular basis to focus on you. Whether it be an hour soaking in the tub, a trip to the gym to blow off some steam or drinks with a friend – do something you enjoy. Dance, paint, run, whatever you love to remind yourself regularly to smile (it’s great for your health) and remember, some things are just out of our control, but there’s always a silver lining on the other-side.
Until next time, Lucy x