Undue Stress: Stress is a word that we throw around on a regular basis.



 Stress is a word that we throw around on a regular basis. It can mean anything from having a bad day, one that did not go to plan and therefore required additional efforts, to complete everything to a series of bad days or events that goes over several weeks and perhaps even months. It is a well-known fact that a source of constant stress is detrimental to both mind and body, showing itself through a variety of symptoms depending on where the individual puts his or her stress. For example, flare ups of eczema, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems, migraines or headaches as well as back issues, including sciatica.

How do we get to a point of undue stress?

Of course, the route that leads to undue and an overload of stress is going to be different for each one of us, but some of the things to look out for that contribute to feeling stressed, in no order of importance are:

  1. Diet based on processed foods and simple carbohydrates.
  2. Inability to say “No” to those that impose their requests and problems on you which we take on even though we want to say ”No”.
  3. Looking at life through a negative lens – things are never quite right, good enough or fast enough. Results are not perfect enough or not the way you wanted them.
  4. Mistaking the world of social media as the real world.
  5. Lack of parameters and discipline in work-life that encroaches on and eats into personal, family and social life.
  1. Diet based on processed foods and simple carbohydrates

Physical wellbeing affects our energy levels, our moods, mental focus and ability, for example for thinking on the spot, making decisions and responding with tolerance and understanding. Foods that support all these aspects of wellbeing are fresh foods, preferably cooked from scratch. This means limiting simple carbohydrates which include all foods based on flour – bread, pasta, pizza, cakes, cookies and other sugary foods as well as all sugar-laden carbonated drinks such as sodas, energy drinks and sweetened fruit juices. Sadly, opting for “zero sugar” will also stress the body as the main ingredient that replaces sugar, aspartame is highly toxic to your body, especially the liver. https://usrtk.org/sweeteners/aspartame_health_risks/

Simple carbs give the body an energy burst that is soon used up leading to a slump in energy. This mechanism when repeated over and over eventually leads the body into a state of stress, not only because of the lack of energy, but also because the gut microbiome suffers and becomes inhabited by “bad” bacteria leading to a plethora of digestive problems that on the simplest level include, excess gas, bloating and discomfort. Due to the gut-brain axis, this in turn affects ability to concentrate and potentially mental ill-health. Could diet have something to do with the recent rise in mental ill-health?

Foods that feed a healthy digestive system feeding brain and body include oily fish such as mackerel, sardine, herring, avocados, olive oil and nut butters, green leafy vegetables and hemp and flaxseeds. Essentially what these foods contain are Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s both of which in the correct ratio are vital for good gut and brain health, as well as providing other benefits of ensuring sufficient mental and physical energy to positively handle stressful situations in your stride.

Dr Perlmutter, author of the Brain Maker and other books, states that “brain vitality and function is dictated by what goes on in the gut.” It is vital that we ensure our gut microbiome is fed correctly and is healthy if we want good mental and physical wellness.

Lack of hydration is also a common form of undue stress on mind and body as major bodily functions such as blood flow, digestion, brain function and cellular activity rely on adequate intake of fluids. When suffering from a headache try taking a glass of water to see if this clears it before reaching for a Panadol or other similar medication.

  1. Inability to say “No”

How many times can you remember saying “Yes” to someone’s request when actually you wanted to say “No” and then later on regretting it?  For many of us this is a common occurrence and every time we do it, it causes undue stress which is pointed inwards at ourselves. The interesting thing is, that once you stand up to someone who has a habit of dumping stuff on you because they know you won’t say “No”, will stop the habit abruptly, that person moving on to someone else.

Take it slowly and practice first with people who you feel “safer” with and as you grow stronger in this skill, use it for those that are more demanding and perhaps even manipulative in their approach. Listen to what they have to say, if you cannot or don’t want to do what is being requested, say, “I am sorry, however the answer is “No” and repeat those words as often as needed until the other person gives up. Avoid offering all kinds of explanations to justify your response as this only serves to lengthen the conversation by giving the other person fuel to feed on and use.

  1. Looking at life through a negative lens

If you tend to see the negative in everything, demand perfectionism from yourself as well as those around you and consequently nothing is ever good enough, realise the undue stress you are causing not only yourself, but others as well. Training yourself out of this is possible with discipline and self-compassion. When you want to respond by highlighting the negative points, raise an issue about something that is not right in your view, stop and correct yourself by first looking for two positives in the situation, your own performance or the performance of someone else before indulging in what is not right.

In other words, keep feedback in balance. In this way you will become more satisfied with the efforts of others as well as your own. This does not mean that you accept mediocrity, it simply means you look at things in balance and with time this practice will become second nature relieving yourself of undue stress.

 Be compassionate with yourself.  Constantly beating yourself up because you have under-performed or when making a mistake creates a state of undue stress and is destructive, ultimately leading to physical symptoms of illness. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself and as you would with others, be constructive in the feedback you give yourself. Avoid being over critical. Criticism from yourself, as others can break inner confidence and self-esteem, again leading to undue stress. Recognise and accept your mistakes, learn from them, and move on instead of ruminating on what you could have done or said.

 Re-frame the negative into the positive – The human mind finds it so much easier to see the negative in a situation and in others. In re-framing we are questioning whether there is such a thing as negative, but rather something that needs our attention. Focusing in on the positive aspects and then the so-called negative helps to stop judgement of others and see more of the positive aspects of a person or situation. Let’s say for example, that you find someone really irritating because they don’t listen to you and you often have to repeat yourself, but they are a reliable colleague. Re-frame that into “X is really a very loyal person, sometimes he finds it difficult to listen to what I am saying. I will try to be more direct, to help him become a better listener.”

Ground yourself daily – stand on Mother Earth without shoes and breathe energy from the earth up through your feet, up the spine and out of the top of your head to the Universe above, Then channel energy down from the Universe, again by deep breathing and giving it back to Mother Earth. As you do this feel that connection of something much more than you are, something joyful, secure and stable. This practice takes approximately five minutes and can be particularly useful when feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

  1. Mistaking the world of social media as the real world

Social media content and the constant need to be “in contact” is a great source of undue stress. Your mobile device is not your identity, it is a tool for sharing and gathering information on a personal and business front, as well as a device to be used to keep others informed of your whereabouts in times of need.

As mobile devices all work off WiFi – electromagnetic frequencies, these frequencies, despite being silent and unseen with extended periods of use cause undue stress on the body. Following are some tips to give you a break from electromagnetic frequencies:

  • Create down time from your devices on a daily basis.
  • Never keep your mobile device close to your body when carrying it or when talking.
  • Avoid taking devices into the bedroom at night as this not only affects your immune system while your body is repairing, but also interrupts getting a good night’s sleep.
  • To get a good night’s sleep, switch off from your devices at least 1 hour before going to bed to limit brain stimulation due to the “blue light” that tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime. Instead engage in quieter activities such as conversation, reading, listening to music, enjoying a relaxing bath, or meditation.
  • Put in boundaries for use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Limit your time each day and do your posting and responding during those times. Avoid getting into any negative conversation with someone and don’t post when you are angry about something, thus encouraging others to either empathise or challenge you, often making the situation worse.
  • If you have children limit their time on WiFi-driven devices encouraging them to engage in outdoor pursuits, reading, modelling, baking and other activities that stimulates good brain function, sound communication skills and curiosity about the world around them.

 Life on mobile devices is depriving us of real human interaction that is so natural, healthy and essential. Talking to someone about issues you are facing can positively help with undue stress. “A problem shared is a problem halved.” 

  1. Lack of parameters and discipline in work-life that encroaches on and eats into personal, family and social life.

This is a common occurrence especially since the advent of hybrid working. Before this at a certain time we would go to work and a certain time finish for the day. Now those parameters have become blurred as for many of us, there is nowhere to go to or come back from. Educate your colleagues about your working hours, and make yourself unavailable out of those hours, unless of course there is an emergency that only you can “fix.” Most importantly stick to your rules and don’t be tempted to just do this or that before finishing for the day because you know that your children are being collected from school by another parent, use that time in some constructive way that helps you unwind, enjoy and embrace life. Getting the balance right leads to full work-life integration that is focused and productive as well as being fun.

Putting some or all of these suggestions into practice on a daily basis will help you manage stress in your stride and avoid harbouring it, causing you circulating thoughts, worry and anxiety. In other words, undue stress.

“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.”             Dodinsky, Author

Written by Rachel ShackletonGreen Key Personal Development


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