Don't drown in stress - 7 signs to look for, plus how to combat it

Stress is not a new concept, it’s widely accepted as part of everyday life, particularly if you have a busy work and personal life.

The first thing to know is that there is nothing wrong with stress, it’s a normal and natural reaction to a circumstance that pushes us to take action, it’s our flight or fight response.

Many years ago it would have been a useful tool to chase dinner or avoid becoming dinner!

However, in modern times it’s more likely to be your lifestyle and job, or elements of your job that set it off.

The problems start when you’re subjected to long periods of stress without a let up or a good way to vent it. This lead to a build up of adrenaline and cortisol (hormones) in your body and will turn into chronic stress and what is otherwise known as adrenal fatigue.

There are some tell tale signs that you’re crossing the line from the right amount of stress into chronic stress.

The quickest way to tell are as follows:

  • Difficulty getting up each morning (even after a long sleep)

  • High levels of fatigue each day & feeling that your energy levels are permanently lower than they used to be

  • Inability to handle stress or potentially stressful situations - it leaves you feeling overwhelmed

  • Cravings for salty foods (body’s levels of minerals are out of balance)

  • Higher energy levels in the evenings

  • Overuse or heavy reliance on stimulants like sugar and caffeine

  • A weakened immune system (are you always catching any cold that’s going around?)

There are other symptoms, but these seven are the top ones to look out for.

Thankfully there are several things can you do to reverse these symptoms or prevent them from even happening in the first place.

The first place to start is by making improvements to your diet. Your body depends on a huge variety of nutrients to function properly, and those suffering from chronic stress are particularly depleted in nutrients (due to the toll stress has taken on their cells).

  • Aim to eat foods that release energy slowly, referred to as low Glycemic Index (GI)

  • Make sure you’re eating enough protein daily (aim for 1g per kg of bodyweight)

  • Add healthy fats in the form of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), avocados, olive/coconut oil, nuts and seeds

  • Hydration - water is liquid gold to our body for so many reasons, make sure you get a minimum of 6 glasses a day

But it isn’t just what you eat, it’s when you eat. Too many people I speak to follow a similar pattern - skip breakfast, sandwich for lunch and then a big meal in the evening.

This causes blood sugar spikes and stress on your digestive system, which in turn can make you even more exhausted. I know it can be difficult to eat in a regular pattern but if you can then your body will perform a lot better and will be more resilient to stress.

Give yourself a break, both physically and mentally. It’s personal preference but plan some time in your diary to do an activity that will ‘shut off’ your mind and take the pressure off you. It could be as simple as listening to relaxing music for 15 minutes, meditating, going for a walk (great for clearing the mind and opening up a new perspective on an existing problem) or exercise.

Exercise works particularly well as you get a release of ‘feel good’ hormones afterwards that will lift your entire demeanour. Personal training can provide a great outlet, especially the boxing based circuits, most clients tell me how great it is to hit something as a means to get out the frustration.

The worst thing to do is do nothing and try and battle on!

Break the cycle, take action.