The dangers of stress – and how to avoid it

As a working mum trying to balance your responsibilities at home with your career or businesses ambitions, it can often feel like there’s little time left in the week to care for yourself.

Kinesiologist Sam Bearfoot explains why stress can be so damaging to your health and career – and how a few simple steps can help you look after your body and keep healthy.

The dangers of stress – and how to avoid it

We all understand that business life can be stressful, but when you throw motherhood, a partner and the household chores into the mix it can turn chaotic quite quickly! I see many business women who have the brilliant job of balancing all of these on a daily basis and, needless to say, they need a helping hand from time to time.

How stress affects your body

Though everyone’s stress is different and we are all biochemically individual, the way our bodies respond to stress is relatively the same. Stress triggers our genetically-driven, functional design which prepares us for certain scenarios. In the fight or flight response for example, your body prepares for you to either stick around and fight or have the energy to run away. But usually today, this usually isn’t the scenario you are in.

Your body does this is by calling on your endocrine system to release the necessary variety of hormones which will provide you with the right tools for fight or flight. This function is designed for sporadic use, not as a constant. But in today’s busy way of living we can have that function almost permanently switched on.

As with anything, if you leave it on for long enough it will eventually slow down and need a recharge. In most cases this leads to illness, as it’s your body’s way of telling you stop, slow down and that it’s in need of some help.

How to support your endocrine system

All is not lost ladies, there are ways to recharge yourself and maintain your charge. Eventually with the right knowledge and tools for the job, the Duracell bunny will have nothing on you.

When clients come to me with stress-related issues, I always start with what is referred to as ‘The Endocrine Boost’. This is a cocktail of nutritional changes combined with supplementation which provides the body with an abundance of the right nutrients. You want foods that are rich in antioxidants, so look for superfoods as they are the best for this job. The supplements almost everyone goes away with in some form are Vitamin C, Vitamin B Complex, Pantothenic Acid B5 and an endocrine support herb, such as Ginseng.

The other change I get them to look at is what they are drinking. Caffeine may seem like your friend but it makes your endocrine system work harder, which is not what you want. My usual rule of thumb around caffeine is two before two – which means no more than two cups a day, which should be drank before two in the afternoon. The rest of your day should be made up of water, and if you want something hot find a natural tea you like.

Don’t take yourself for granted

All too often I hear women say ‘oh I’ll be ok’ or ‘I deal with this all the time, its fine’. I can tell straight away that they think they’re invincible to the affects that stress is having on them. I can say with complete confidence that it’s a pretty big mistake to think this way – I’ve been there and got not just the t-shirt, but an entire outfit to prove it!

In the past, I took myself for granted and stopped walking my walk in exchange for pushing on with my business and increasing my client base. Now I know that neither of those are a bad thing, they have to be done, but they shouldn’t be in exchange for good health. I ended up out of action with ill health for almost a year, and what this did to my business was unthinkable.

So it’s important to treat looking after yourself as another item on your to-do list – and a high priority one at that. It’s as important as doing a tax return or keeping up with your social media marketing. It must become an integral part of your business plan, because you are your business and without you in the game your business will suffer greatly. You are your greatest asset and should be looked after accordingly.

Enjoy your down time

Generally speaking, once you get your head around building something for yourself into your routine, the next question is ‘what?’ I’m a firm believer in what works for one may not work for another, so you must experiment a little bit here. Needless to say if you can’t stand someone touching your feet, reflexology is not for you. Or indeed if you don’t like being touched at all then kinesiology isn’t going to help you relax. Try to think outside the box. Relaxation doesn’t have to be therapy – yoga, tai chi, pilates or even just a walk around the park are all wonderful tools for stress relief.

What’s important is finding the answers to these three things:

Choose something that’s convenient – find something that can fit into your schedule pretty easily. It will need to be local to where you are most frequently, and if you can only spare 30 mins once a week, don’t book yourself into a therapy session that takes a minimum of an hour because you simply won’t keep it up.

Find someone you like – find a therapist or instructor you like and can relate to.  Your down time is for you, and your therapist is there to hear all about you so talk away, it’s what you pay them for. I encourage this in all my sessions. There’s a lot to be said for just being there to listen to someone. It can also be surprisingly good for you to hear the feedback you will get. The view of the other person will be objective and may help you with the very thing that’s been stressing you out.

Ask if you can swap skills – if budget is a problem then find someone that will skills swap with you. I’ve personally build up many relationships this way as I’m happy to skills swap with other professional women. There will be therapists and other professionals out there that need help with something whether it’s PR, social media, accounting or design. Ask them, you could be missing out on a great relationship which is mutually beneficial if you don’t.

Take time to relax and look after your body and your career

Whatever activity helps you to relax, make sure that you make space in your busy week to enjoy it. That precious time out will leave you energised and raring to go the rest of the week, and help you to achieve more, while taking care of your body and mind.