April heralds the beginning of Stress Awareness Month
Acclaimed TV Doctor Arun Ghosh who founded The Ghosh Medical Group and went on to become the resident doctor on The Jeremy Kyle Show has increased his national profile further following daily appearances this Spring on the BBC’s Food: Truth or Scare and Health: Truth or Scare programmes. He’s also been appointed as Health Ambassador for Mothercare championing their Body Proud Mums campaign.
In spite of his work schedule, Dr Ghosh takes it all in his stride and was well placed to offer readers some top tips to reduce stress as part of Stress Awareness Month which runs throughout April.
He told us: “Often it’s little changes that we can all do that will make a big difference to our daily stress levels. Small amounts of stress can be good for us but built up over long periods of time, daily stresses can be precursors for depression, anxiety and lower immune system. Aches and pains are increased and even our weight can be a side effect of high stress levels daily. What’s really important is using April to help reduce your levels of stress throughout the rest of 2019 by adopting some new healthier habits now.”
Dr Ghosh also suggests:
Limited screen time especially in the evening.
“This is because light from screen devices mimics daytime, it suppresses melatonin, a sleep signal released by darkness. Just minutes of screen stimulation can delay melatonin release by several hours and de-synchronise the body clock. Once the body clock is disrupted, all sorts of other unhealthy reactions occur, such as hormone imbalanceand brain inflammation. Plus, high arousal doesn’t permit deep sleep, and deep sleep is how we deal with stress.
Get enough exercise.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.
It might seem contradictory but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress. Studies show people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t exercise.
Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, which as we have mentioned is vital to reduce stress. My advice is to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga as you are more likely to keep these up than that gruelling spin class or intensive cross-fit training boot camp. Again, studies have shown activities such as walking or jogging that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly good stress relievers.
Nature is a free and easy way to reduce stress that many of us do not take nearly enough advantage of. While finding time to go outside and take a walk, or a hike, or just sitting in the sun can be difficult, studies from Stanford University have shown spending as little as five minutes outside can reduce stress levels. There is no excuse not to get outside for at least a few minutes a day over the spring and summer…the sun exposure helps with vitamin D levels and exercise that will inevitably occur too has the benefits we mentioned.
Do something creative.
Creative engagement has been proved by recent studies not only to reduce depression and feelings of isolation, it also floods the brain with dopamine, a natural antidepressant. Really doing anything creative helps, for example, painting, baking, gardening, knitting…whatever drives your creativity. Whetheror not you’re aware of your increased happiness, the hit of dopamine you get after being in a creative flow will drive and influence you towards similar behaviour.
Mounting scientific evidence from hundreds of universities suggests that mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being. Some of the ways that mindfulness helps you with stress is as you become more aware of your thoughts, you can then step back from them and not take them so literally. That way, your stress response is not initiated in the first place. In these studies people who practice mindfulness showed reduced activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, your background level of stress is reduced.
Practice a healthy work/life balance.
The most common cause of stress I see as a GP are in those patients who do not have a healthy work/life balance. The UK figures show that what I am seeing is unfortunately all too common throughout all the UK as statistics show:
• 70% of managers think work-related stress has an adverse effect on their home lives and therefore impacts on their work–life balance.
• 27,000 people take time off work each day as a result of stress.
• The British Heart Foundation has indicated that stressful jobs increase the risk of coronary heart disease by more than 50% in men and by more than 70% in women compared to less stressful jobs.
The most difficult thing I try to get across to my patients and sometimes their employers is actually this is bad for your work too. The reality is that our minds and bodies are not built for chronic stress. Anxiety lowers our intellect and performance by constricting the brain to perceived emergencies (that are false alarms almost all the time). We are thus less able to make complex decisions or multi task. It’s also not a good basis for informed decisions or rapport with family and friends in our personal lives, never mind our colleagues or clients. So, the spiral of bad choices and poor decisions just continues.
Ghosh Medical Group has just been nominated for another award this month and you can vote for them now via https://downtowninbusiness.com/awards/colba/