With the support of your doctor or naturopath, better mental health can be achieved. You can develop strategies to help you feel in control of your situation. Stress does not discriminate on age or gender, with both men and women of any’ age feeling the effects of stress at some time or another.
However, what is stressful for one person may not be’stressful for another, as everybody reacts to stress in different ways. In fact, stress can be so ingrained’ in your daily life, that it may feel ‘normal’. Nevertheless, it is important not to underestimate the impact that stress may have on your physical and mental well being.
Working with a Natural Healthcare Practitioner who understands the effects of stress, and who can identify and provide strategies for your specific needs, will help you increase your tolerance to stress and reduce its impact on your body and mind.
Setting Goals to Improve Mental Wellbeing
Setting goals gives life direction, boosts motivation and increases self-confidence. Goals, whether big or small, set to be achieved in a week or a year, are significant signposts on your way to health and well being. That said, goals should be set to give you the greatest chance of success.
Your Practitioner may have a system to help you set some weekly personal goals. Alternately, you and your Practitioner can use the tips below to formulate some achievable goals that will help you to reduce the impact of stress on your well being. Once agreed upon, write these in a Personal Wellbeing Journal.
A commonly used goal-setting method uses the ‘SMART’ approach:
- Firstly, find you’re ‘why’– why do you want to achieve your goal? Then ask yourself What? Where, When, Who, Which. Detailed specific goals are more likely to be achieved. Your goal and so know you have achieved it?
- Measurable: Make your measurement something you can write down each day in your journal to track your progress.
- Attainable: Once you identify what is important to you, consider what your challenges might you find? How will you overcome them? Do not shrink your goal to accommodate your attitudes. Aim to grow and expand your attitudes and beliefs to achieve your goal.
- Realistic: Goals Need To Be Realistic. Be sure you are both willing and able to achieve your goal, even if it will take time.
What Does Stress Feel Like to You? The Many Faces of Stress
Stress can manifest in many ways and is different for each individual. You may identify with one or a combination of these different presentations.
Nervous tension and anxiety: Frequent and persistent tension and anxiety may manifest as excessive fear and worry, restlessness, tightening of the chest, racing heartbeat, and in extreme cases panic attacks. This negatively impacts the quality of life and normal day-to-day functioning.
Wired and tired: When stress is ongoing, your brain may perceive this as an ongoing threat, mounting a stress response to keep you alert or ‘wired’. This can reduce your ability to relax and wind-down, resulting in feeling not only wired but tired too – a sensation of being unable to switch-off in spite of being exhausted.
Exhausted and flat: In some individuals, exposure to ongoing stress may physically change the way their brain is able to respond. In these circumstances, the person is left feeling both physically and mentally exhausted, affecting performance at work and in everyday life.
Low mood: Ongoing stress can lead to structural changes to brain tissues, changing the way the brain functions. This can affect the activity of brain chemicals leading to feelings of poor mood.
Emotional: In many people, the effects of ongoing stress impacts their resilience. This may manifest as feelings of overwhelm, vulnerability, and lead to teary, weepy moments.
Insomnia: Stress can negatively impact sleep quality and quantity. This may manifest as an inability to unwind and fall asleep due to ruminating thoughts about your day, frequent waking, and/or feeling unrefreshed upon waking.
What Drives Stress?
Stress acts to motivate and sharpen your focus in situations where immediate action is required. The greater the intensity or urgency of the situation, the greater your stress response will be. For example, if you are faced with danger, your body switches on your acute stress response (also called the ‘flight or fight’ response) to give you a burst of energy and to help you deal with the danger by either running away or fighting back.
However, in the modern world, with emotional triggers seemingly around every corner, many people are faced with ongoing stressors, such as work deadlines, being stuck in traffic, endless emails, and negative news stories. In response to stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol – a chemical that allows you to stay in an active, attentive state for long periods of time in order to handle the stress at hand.
Chronic stress strongly affects every system in your body, with ongoing or poorly managed stress increasing the risk of experiencing potential health consequences.
Stress may affect:
- Mental well being and mood
- Sleeping patterns (e.g. your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep)
- Energy levels
- Digestive function
- Cardiovascular function, such as your heart rate and blood pressure; and
- Reproductive hormones
It is important to manage your stressors in addition to your physical response to stressful situations in order to ensure balance and health are maintained.
Everyone is unique in how they respond to snd experience stress. Your practitioner will help you to identify the causes of your stress. but also the impact stress may be having on you physically and/or mentally that may not be obvious. This may include;
- Inflammation and infection
- Oxidative Stress – stress can destroy brain cells.
- Gut disturbances
- Weight Management
- Poor Sleep
Your doctor can assess and prioritize all the above stress contributors and may recommend nutritional and herbal support, detoxification and weight management programs, diet, and lifestyle intervention specific to your needs.
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