Stress is one of the most primitive responses of our body. In the pre-civilised world, stress triggered a ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies, and when danger approached in the form of a predator or a hazardous situation, our systems would flood with hormones such as cortisol, raising our heart rate, making breathing heavier (requiring more oxygen) and increasing blood flow to our muscles, allowing us to sense peril and escape or prepare to exchange blows.
However, in our current milieu, be it at work or home, though our body still retains its primal instincts, it cannot tell the difference between a ravenous tiger or an angry spouse or an unsatisfied boss and the stress response is activated even though there is no impending peril or threat to us. Instead of helping us get away, our stress response can result in several adverse health conditions such as anxiety attacks, hypertension and headaches. Persistently being under stress can also result in other physical and mental health concerns such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome and sleeplessness.
People respond to stress differently. Stress can be triggered by unpleasant news, criticism at work, financial difficulties and marital problems to name a few. Some people complain of uneasy breathing, while others experience nausea, lightheadedness and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Blood pressure levels can also increase or drop as a reaction to stressful stimuli. A flutter of anxiety there, a sigh of frustration here, a sudden rush of anger there – no matter how under control or optimistic we may be, we have all experienced some measures of stress now and again, and especially in the workplace. The usual off-hand and easy remedies for stress are taking a walk outdoors, educating one’s self on various breathing exercises, listening to music, investing in plants or doing some visualising exercises. These methods of stress relief are tried and tested and for the majority, very effective. However, it is not always convenient to walk out of the office to take a stroll, especially if one works in an industrial area, or to stick in headphones with a bunch of other people working around you and shooting comments or instructions now and again.
There are simpler, longer lasting and more fun ways to stress relieve at work. One of the most vital and possibly long-term counter-exercises to stress is healthy eating. According to medical research, our gut and our mind are interconnected, they form the gut-brain axis. Stress is related to the brain and immune system, and our gut is the principal organ in our immune system. So a healthy gut can often to lead to a much healthier and relaxed mind. Yogis often follow a healthy and light vegetarian diet because they feel it is harder to concentrate on meditation if one’s gut in churning with hard to digest processed food and artificial chemicals. However, aside from maintaining a healthy diet in general, during moments of stress or pressure, there are a couple of tips that can be useful in calming the body down:
Have a quick snack:
The thought of a favorite snack or a small dose of fresh flavours and comfort can go a long way to make one feel better instantaneously. Snacks like half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg can give the mind a signal that nourishment is being provided to the body which relaxes the mind. This technique may also be more beneficial if you take your snack away from your computer/laptop and go sit somewhere relaxing, or at least away from your desk for a few minutes.
A more specific snack that can lower stress levels is a mango. If seasonally available, use a few minutes to sink your teeth into a juicy mango, which contains a composite called linalool that helps reduce stress levels.
Treat yourself to some chocolate:
This is not to say that office stress is the perfect excuse for eating your feelings, but a small square of chocolate can calm your nerves. Dark chocolate regulates levels of the stress hormone cortisol and stabilises metabolism.
Chew a stick of gum: Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath fresher — it can alleviate anxiety, recover alertness and decrease stress during episodes of being overwhelmed or hyper anxiety.
Indulge in some honey: Reduce tension with a spoonful of honey. Besides being a moisturiser and antibiotic, honey also supplies amalgams to the body that reduce irritation in the brain, meaning it helps to combat depression and anxiety.
Eat a Banana: Potassium, which is found in substantial quantities in bananas and potatoes, helps to normalise blood pressure, which rises during times of stress. Some people find that eating a banana when they’re feeling stressed can help improve energy.
Aside from nutrition there are a few other tricks that can be helpful during tension episodes. Taking a break from looking at the computer and reducing the use of laptops an hour before going to sleep can be helpful in reducing tiredness. Progressive relaxation is another technique that can help reduce stress, but also help with falling asleep and fighting off insomnia. Squeezing and releasing a tension ball in a regular pattern can achieve this sort of relaxation, especially at work. Laughter therapy, watching a funny video online or even an amusing dialogue with another person, can tremendously deflate stress levels.
Do-it-yourself hand massage: During hectic office hours, it is near to impossible to make time for a proper massage, an easier way for instant relief is to apply pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) that can help to produce a feeling of instant calm, this can be particularly helpful for people who spend a lot of time typing on a keyboard.
Rub your feet over a golf ball: Feet have sensitive nerves that adjoin to other major nerves in the body. You can get an impromptu calming foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball during work or when at your workstation.
Drip cold water on your wrists: When anxiety hits, head for the bathroom and drop some cold water on your wrists and behind your earlobes. There are major blood vessels right underneath the skin in these two areas, so cooling these areas can help calm the whole body.
There are also other stress relievers like brushing your hair. Continuous or repetitive motions can often help relieve anxiety, or taking up a hobby like knitting, doing the crossword puzzle or even washing the dishes or cooking can be therapeutic for most people. Being more organised, sorting out clutter or filing can also be advantageous at times. However, the most beneficial activity that we can do for our mental and physical health is to get regular exercise. From yoga, to running, or brisk walks, stretching, Pilates to name a few, trigger better blood circulation, digestion, detoxification and encourage healthier skin and hair growth.