Stress and busy lifestyles: How is it affecting your health?

Your mind is racing, with a long list of things to still do. The calendar is full of social events and commitments. Work is hounding and you can’t remember the last time you had your lunch break. You are sleep deprived exhausted, grumpy and defeated. 

Does it ever stop?

This blog comes inspired by another post I read recently which reflected on the way our lives have become so demanding that we have surrendered our identity to one of perpetual busyness. 

The author proposed that when asked how we are, we often respond with “I am so busy” or “I am exhausted”. He then went on to describe that in Arabic when you want to ask how someone is doing, you ask: Kayf haal-ik?  and this actually translates to “how is your heart”? 

This really connected with me and I will tell you why. These days we are so caught up in doing that we are not being. We tend to measure our success by doings. Often it’s the classic scenario of setting ourselves the goals or outcomes we want to achieve and when get there- wanting more. How much can we push? How much harder can we work? More, more, more! And with this we lose sight and awareness of those human moments and connections in which we can immerse our full attention and joy in being in that moment. We are always thinking, planning, what next?

I am not saying don’t set goals, have dreams or aspirations. I’m just saying, be realistic with these expectations and give your self a break if you take a little longer to get there. We are our worst critics.

In addition to this, we are frequently projecting what we think people or society wants us to be. Take a look at facebook? Doesn’t it seem like everyone has perfectly happy lives and looks stunning in every picture posted? Lets get real. This isn’t all of who we really are. 

And all the while this running around and projecting is making us TIRED and STRESSED. 

I think if we look a little deeper we can evaluate how stress and busy lifestyles affect our health:

Stress: 

Stress is a natural body response.  It can be positive in small doses to avoid danger, but if turned on continually (“distress”) stress can begin to affect the body in quite a negative way. The stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline, which are both released by the adrenal glands perched on top of the kidneys.

When these hormones are over excited you will most likely experience symptoms such as disturbed sleep, elevated blood pressure, fatigue, an upset stomach, headaches or anxiety. 

How stress impacts upon my clients:

  • Heightened sensitivities to food
  • Triggering of binge or emotional eating
  • Inability to make decisions or organise themselves
  • Overeating
  • The use of food or alcohol as reward to get through hard circumstances
  • Weight gain
  • Poor sleep and consequential increased appetite
  • Heart attacks (I am serious)

Lack of good sleep

I don’t really know where to start. Sleep is so crucial to good health – and we spend a third of our lives doing it (wow!).

During sleep cerebrospinal fluid flow increases 20 fold. The brain also shrinks to leave room for it to surge into the interstitial space between brain structures. This process allows the waste products of metabolism to be eliminated. 

Lack of good sleep can result in the following:

Studies have proven that 7-9 hours sleep is optimal. I’d be advising turn off that technology before bed! Recent studies have shown that blue light from technological devices reduces melatonin in the brain (a hormone which makes you sleepy).

Using and Abusing Food, Caffeine & Alcohol

Food as a reward or celebration, caffeine to bump you through the day or alcohol as a switch off…. go on, you “deserve it”. Too much of the previous isn’t a good thing.

Why?  You are behaviorally depending on these things to deal with stress and in large quantities this can have profound consequences on your health.

Too Much Caffeine:

  • Anxiety, racing thoughts, problems sleeping, fatigue, dependency, withdrawal headaches.

Too Much Food:

  • Weight gain. Too much sugar, salt and fat link back to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Too Much Alcohol:

  • Weight gain and poor food choices. There is also strong evidence that the chronic intake of alcohol (more than 2 drinks/day) is associated with increased risk of many cancers. These include mouth, lung, gastric (stomach), liver, endometrial, pancreatic, colorectal and breast.

Three years ago I spent New Years Eve at a small oasis in the middle of a dessert in Peru. I had been travelling South America with friends for ten weeks and it gave me some fantastic time for reflection. All my life I have been a doer and it always meant I was always on the run. I literally couldn’t sit still! Even if I was at home I needed to be doing something “productive”. My resolution was to slow down and create more “me” or “quiet” time.

Since then this has revolutionized my life. I have learnt to say no to invitations without guilt. I have learnt it’s ok to have a quiet moment - silences don’t have to be filled.  I am also selfish about my wellbeing. I now practice yoga 5-6 times per week and use my Friday’s sometimes as mental health days to keep my mind fresh. I believe this helps run my business to its maximum potential – I love my job.

I now feel more centered and happy. I can give out more motivation, education and inspiration to my beautiful clients. I am less tired and more relaxed. My immunity is improved, I do not get sick often. I recover well from my exercise. I sleep like an absolute log.

So do you want to be one of those people who when asked always says, “Busy”? Or do you want to be one who is a relatively relaxed and with a lot better health?

How is your heart?