Short bursts of stress (called acute) are essential for helping us to perform at a higher level. But elevated stress over long periods of time (called chronic) can make us sick. 

The benefit of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol is that they increase our capacity to function at a high level, both mentally and physically. This is a good thing in short bursts. But it’s a bad thing to be flooded with those hormones for long periods. If they remain in our systems over time, or are dumped into our bloodstream day after day, they can cause problems.

It’s really hard to live a high-performance life when you are constantly stressed. Chronic stress damages your body, threatens your mental health, puts strain on your relationships and takes the joy out of life. Why is it so bad? Because without a break from stressful situations, your brain and body get run down. You are not built to run on stress chemicals.

What are the ongoing stresses in your life? Too much school work? Too many activities on your schedule? Tension in your relationships with friends or family? A sick family member? The pressure of a looming deadline, exam or university application?  

Whatever it is, if you are experiencing ongoing stress, you need an approach that will help you relieve it. How you respond to stress is up to you.

Here are some proven techniques that will help:

Move your body: rhythmic, repeated motion is soothing to our minds and bodies, such as walking, cycling, swimming or running. But any kind of movement will relieve tension, improve circulation and clear your mind – so get out and do something.

Get into nature: leave your ear buds in your pocket and head outside to the park, the woods or the garden. Being in nature will lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, reduce tension and depression, and boost your mood.

Have perspective: if you tell yourself “this is the worst day of my life” and conclude you can’t manage the situation, you will be adding to the stress. Try to step back and see that while this is hard and unpleasant, you can handle it. Believing you are strong and resourceful actually makes you stronger and more resourceful.

Change the nature of your response: research indicates that taking an active, problem-solving approach to life’s challenges relieves stress and can transform it into something positive. If you withdraw, deny the problem or spend all your time venting, you’ll feel helpless. Instead, be determined to make a change, put effort into it, and plan for better results. Pivot from threat to challenge.

Today's Power Up: The STOP Practice

THE NEXT TIME YOU FEEL SUFFOCATED BY THE PRESSURE OF A SITUATION, TRY THE STOP PRACTICE. STOP STANDS FOR STOP, TAKE A BREATH, OBSERVE, AND PROCEED. HERE ARE THE FOUR STEPS IN DETAIL.

1. STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND BECOME AWARE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT.

2. TAKE A BREATH. OR TWO. OR TEN.

3. OBSERVE YOUR BODY AND SCAN IT FOR ANY SENSATIONS, TENSION, EMOTIONS THAT ARE PRESENT.

4. PROCEED. CARRY ON WITH LIFE AND SET AN INTENTION GUIDED BY “WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT AS I MOVE FORWARD?”. IT MAY EVEN BE THAT YOU NEED TO CYCLE THROUGH THE STOP PRACTICE AGAIN!