THE EXPERT: Dr Rangan Chatterjee, BBCi’s Doctor in the House and author of the new book The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset your Body, Mind, Relationships & Purpose (£16.99, Penguin Life) in the morning, you sleep better, you feel less anxious in the afternoon and etween 70 and 90 per cent of all GP appointments are stress related, says Chatterjee so learning to manage your stress level is vital – not just for your physical health and mental wellbeing, but so that you can flourish in your life too.
THE Stress isn’t just caused by big events such as a relationship ending or a major work project; micro stress doses (MSDs) – the mini hits of stress we all have every day, such as missing a bus, the TV being on too loud, reading work emails before we get up – all have an effect. To minimise their impact, tackle stress from all angles – psychological, emotional, dietary, physical and technological.
Chatterjee. ‘When you only have coffee you feel less stressed One of the best ways to buffer yourself against the MSDs is to have a morning routine. Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, Chatterjee recommends the Three M’s – Mindfulness, Movement and Mindset. ‘For Mindfulness, try breathing exercises, meditation or making your cup of coffee mindfully. Use Movement to get the blood moving around your body – maybe two minutes of yoga, a 10-minute sequence or a round of press-ups.’ For Mindset, send your thoughts in a positive direction.
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THE CONNECTION PRESCRIPTION
Turn off all notifications and synching on your phone,’ advises the stress doctor. ‘It’s the most life-changing thing you can do to take control back from your technology.’
Put your phone out of sight in social situations – studies show that even if it’s face-down on the table, it still reduces your cognitive ability! When you feel your mobile usage is starting to climb, try turning your phone to greyscale. Looking at everything in black and white makes it a lot less desirable and dramatically reduces your usage.
Diarise time with your friends. ‘Seeing your friends in real life is not a luxury but a necessity for good health,’ says Chatterjee. In fact, it’s so important to feel part of a community that if you’re socially isolated, your body will become inflamed and your genes change their expression, he explains. ‘Friendship is a huge part of what makes us human. We have evolved in communities, and friendships nourish you in a different way to your partner, family or children. All it needs is a bit of planning.’ See box below for three ways to stay in touch.
Keep caffeine for pre-lunch
Caffeine causes a significant stress on the body – if you’re having coffee or green tea past midday, you won’t be accessing the same levels of deep REM sleep you would without caffeine, warns Chatterjee. The result? You’ll wake up more stressed than you would have been. Not convinced? If you have a large coffee at lunchtime, a quarter of that is still in your body at midnight, explains Three ways to stay connected with your friends:
Plan play dates – At the start of the year, think about your closest mates, then plan some face-to-face meet-ups, even just one or two for distant friends. If they live locally, try to meet them once a week.
Have risky, maskless conversations – We spend most of our lives trying to project an image to others. Be authentic with your closest friends, secure in the knowledge they get you and will always have your back.
Write letters – Online communications are usually transactional rather than meaningful or nourishing, but there’s something personal, precious and intimate about writing a physical letter or card.
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