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Eight Proven Tips to Stop Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed & Totally Exhausted

Eight Proven Tips to Stop Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed & Totally Exhausted

Are you one in five people that feel anxious all of the time or a lot of time? A 2014 survey of Mental Awareness Week in UK shows only one in twenty people never feel anxious. According to Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are more likely to feel anxious than men. Wait, there’s more! One-fifth of people who have experienced anxiety do nothing to cope with it. Comfort eating is used by a quarter of those who suffer with feelings of anxiety, and women and children are more likely to use this way of coping.

Is that normal?

We accept these feelings as a part and parcel of our fast paced digital lives. As we go about our routines, we brush these little pesky feelings as a one-off and accept the signs as bad habits, tiredness, sugar cravings, or poor sleep, only to cause further damage in terms of confidence, relationships, health and our lives.

Anxiety is a very real and unpleasant physiological condition and not one that we can brush off. It is created by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are tiny organs sitting just above the kidneys and secrete hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. They produce the hormones Pregnenolone (the Mother Hormone), DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). The adrenal glands are your body’s first line of defense against the stresses of daily living – they give orders to the reproductive organs, play a role in thyroid function and metabolism and regulate the fight-or-flight stress response.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone made in your adrenal glands and it’s designed to get you out of danger. When you’re in a stressful situation, you feel the positive effects of cortisol – the rise of energy, the sharp focus, the charge.

Cortisol has 3 main jobs: raise blood sugar (to feed muscles so you can run or fight), raise blood pressure, and modulate immune function.

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There are two key points about a healthy stress response that need to be emphasized: first, it takes priority over all other metabolic functions in the body and second, it wasn’t designed to last very long.

Our ancestors used this response to escape life-threatening situations, like fleeing from wooly mammoths. Their adrenals would release adrenaline and cortisol which would immediately increase their heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, shut down digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen their senses. Thousands of years later, our bodies still respond the same way, except nowadays we are not running away from anything. In the past there would be acute moments of stress followed by periods of rest, but today we are in a constant state of less-threatening but chronic stress – tight deadlines, a mean boss, bills, demanding partner, your teen hanging with the wrong crowd – the list goes on…

If this were to happen once or twice a month it would be okay, but for most of us it happens every single day with absolutely no let-up. This eventually leads to what is known as the “cortisol switch,” where your body not only recognizes the positive aspects of cortisol but starts recognizing the negative aspects of cortisol too.

Example: You drink a cup of coffee and feel like a rock star for 30 minutes. Ready to take on the world! Then you hit a wall and get all anxious and jittery. Your blood sugar drops and you begin to feel heavy and deflated.

If you have been stressed for several months or years, you probably have chronically elevated blood cortisol levels. Cortisol promotes abdominal weight gain, cravings, and makes weight loss very difficult. High cortisol suppresses your immune system. If your cortisol has been cranked up for a long time, there usually comes a point when your adrenal glands simply can’t pump out enough cortisol anymore; they become exhausted. This stress and total burn out of adrenal glands is known as Adrenal Fatigue or Dysfunction.

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How do you identify adrenal exhaustion?

Feeling tired but wired
Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep
Light, broken sleep
Strong cravings for sugar and/or salt
Feeling overwhelmed like you cannot cope with what life throws at you
Feeling tired in the morning but getting a burst of energy anywhere between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Poor memory, brain fog and lack of concentration
Weakened immunity and recurring infections

If the adrenals are constantly over-worked, the entire endocrine system becomes deficient and stops functioning properly. This is why the food you eat and proper stress management is crucial to begin healing your hormonal imbalances. Once your adrenal function is restored, cortisol production is reduced and your adrenals resume normal function and production of hormones.

Sadly, many in the conventional medical world do not acknowledge adrenal conditions unless they are severe diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome (excess cortisol) or Addison’s disease (severe lack of cortisol usually caused by autoimmune disease). Milder forms of adrenal imbalance can definitely impair the quality of your life and produce quite severe symptoms. The first step is to get yourself tested. You are supposed to have higher cortisol in the morning and lower levels in the evening, but this pattern is often reverse in people with imbalanced adrenals.

How to treat adrenal exhaustion?

1. Try to get adequate sleep. People with adrenal fatigue often have poor quality sleep. Your adrenals will greatly benefit if you can unplug and get in bed by 10:30 p.m. The hours before midnight are more restorative to your body.

2. Try to reduce the stress in your life or look for more effective ways of dealing with it. Make self care non-negotiable. Massage, meditation, yoga, counseling, reading, or going for a walk are some ways you can unwind.

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3. Steer clear of stimulants. I have nothing against caffeine, but people with adrenal fatigue should really eliminate it out of their diet. It is also best to keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum, especially before bed. It can help you feel drowsy, but it does reduce the quality of your sleep.

4. Minimise your salt and sugar intake. If you often crave these foods in order to keep you going, try to indulge in healthier versions instead. Try swapping a packet of crackers with some olives instead. When it comes to sugar, small amounts of fresh dates, manuka honey or maple syrup are healthier alternatives. These foods are so intense in flavor, that you only need small amounts to appease a sweet tooth. As your energy levels improve, you will stop having these cravings.

5. Make sure you eat enough protein and good fats. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, reducing the energy slumps caused by a blood sugar crash.

6. Most of the Vitamin C in your body is stored in your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands will struggle to function if you don’t consume enough Vitamin C, so be sure to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

7. Magnesium is calming to the muscular and nervous systems and it allows the adrenals to repair themselves. Taking some magnesium before bed should also help improve your sleep quality.

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8. Find out if you have a food allergy or intolerance. Eating foods that your body cannot tolerate is a major physical stress on your body. You may need a nutritionist’s help in uncovering hidden food sensitivities.

Repairing and nourishing these tiny glands would not only protect you from chronic illnesses, but also improve your mood and anxiety. Remember there’s an important difference between giving up and letting go. So let go of the stress. Take the first step with mindful eating.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Stockette via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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