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Beat Stress Like a Pro: Expert Tips for Boosting Your Well-being

Beat stress: Improve well-being

Stress is a prevalent and growing issue globally, and Australia is no exception. According to the Australian Psychological Society's Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey, stress is a significant concern for many Australians. In their latest survey, around 35% of Australians reported having a significant level of distress. As a kinesiologist I work with people who are dealing with stress on a daily basis and this article is designed to offer you some insights into stress and how to beat it like a pro.

Understanding Stress: Why It's More Than Just a Feeling

You know that feeling when your to-do list seems never-ending, and there's always something else demanding your attention? That's stress in action. But it's not just in your head – it's a physiological response that can wreak havoc on your body and mind if left unchecked. As we age, our bodies become more sensitive to stress, making it crucial to understand how it affects us.

The Mind-Body Connection: How stress affects you physically

Ever notice how your thoughts and feelings can affect your physical well-being, and vice versa? That's the mind-body connection in action. As a kinesiologist, I've seen firsthand the powerful impact that stress can have on both our bodies and our minds. Here are some of the ways stress can affect our physical bodies:

  1. Fight or flight response: Activating our fight or flight response and triggering the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

  2. Effects on the nervous system: Activating the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and redirects blood flow to vital organs such as the heart and muscles. 

  3. Inflammation and immune function: Chronic stress exposes us to elevated levels of stress hormones that can lead to inflammation, weakened immune function, and increased risk of various health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.

  4. Impact on the brain: Chronic stress can also affect the structure and function of the brain. It can lead to changes in brain regions involved in memory, learning, and emotional regulation, contributing to conditions like anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment.

  5. Musculoskeletal Effects: Stress can also manifest physically in the form of muscle tension, headaches, and other musculoskeletal issues. Chronic muscle tension can lead to pain and stiffness, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back.

  6. Digestive System: Stress can disrupt digestion and gastrointestinal function, leading to symptoms like stomach aches, indigestion, and changes in appetite. Chronic stress is associated with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

  7. Sleep Disruption: Stress can interfere with sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Poor sleep quality further exacerbates stress and can contribute to a vicious cycle of sleep disruption and heightened stress levels.

Stress is a necessary response in the short term, however continued stressful events and chronic stress can become very problematic and take an enormous toll on our overall health and well-being. So how do we address this growing problem of stress?

Lifestyle Changes that help you deal with stress

We are all often juggling the multiple demands of family, work and relationships, so stress is going to continue to be part of our lives. With this in mind our goal then becomes coping with stress or building resilience to stress.  When I work with clients the top 5 areas we look at making changes in include:

  1. Regular physical activity

  2. Healthy eating habits

  3. Regulating the mind

  4. Quality sleep

  5. Social support and connection

As a kinesiologist I am always looking for ways to help people balance their mental, emotional, physical, biochemical and environmental health.  But when you’re feeling stressed and anxious already, where do you start? 

Lifestyle Modifications: Small Changes, Big Impact

When life gets hectic, self-care often takes a backseat. But taking care of yourself is crucial, especially when it comes to managing stress. A common problem I see in clients is that they think they need to make major life changes to reduce stress or improve their resilience to it. And the irony of this is that often these big lifestyle changes can induce stress because the change required is too great.

My advice to clients is always to start small, implementing small changes that can be sustained for the long-term. Set goals that are so small it would seem silly not to do them, and then do them regularly and consistently. Does walking 10 minutes a day sound achievable? And whilst this doesn’t seem like it would have an impact, it’s likely that over time and once a habit of walking each day has been established, you’ll walk more than your goal of 10 minutes. And even if you don’t increase this, keep it up for a year and you would have walked for more than 60 hours or around 330km!  Small consistent action leads to big results over time.

Stress Management Techniques: Regulating the mind to improve well-being

Managing stress isn't a one-size-fits-all approach – it's all about finding what works best for you. There are numerous and varied mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing.  And recently I’ve been hearing a lot more about Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) - which is a technique that is gaining substantial attention for its reported benefits in stress reduction and overall well-being.

For others, calming the mind may be found through journaling or engaging in creative hobbies that provide an outlet for stress. Spending time in nature, reading a book or playing with your pet are other commonly reported activities that soothe an overactive and overanxious mind. So explore and start to fill your own ‘toolbox’ with those strategies and techniques that work for you.

Box breathing (Square breathing) technique

I love to teach my clients breathing techniques as they are easy to do, can be done anywhere and are highly effective at slowing down the mind and the body.  A simple one I teach both adults and children in my practice is called ‘box breathing’.

There’s a great 1-minute YouTube video on this (, but here’s how you do it: imagine a square (or box) and you are going to breathe in for 4 counts (as you move along one side of the box in your imagination), then hold for 4 counts (as you travel the next side of the box in your imagination), then breathe out for 4 counts (as you travel the third side of the box), and hold for 4 counts (as you close the last side of the box). Then repeat.

It continues to excite me how such a simple and accessible tool can make such a difference to our physical and mental state. Try this one for yourself.

Get connected: Humans are wired to be social

Social connections play a crucial role in regulating emotions and managing stress. When we feel connected to others and supported by our social network, our bodies release oxytocin, often referred to as the "bonding hormone," which promotes feelings of trust, empathy, and connection. This physiological response helps to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and enhance overall well-being.

Studies have shown that strong social connections and a sense of community can reduce stress, improve overall health, and enhance well-being by providing emotional support, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting resilience.

Conclusion: Learn to Manage Your Stress for healthier and happier life

So, there you have it – my top tips for beating stress like a pro and reclaiming your well-being. Remember, by prioritizing self-care, adopting healthy lifestyle habits, and finding effective stress management techniques that work for you, you can respond to stress in a more productive way and live a happier, healthier life. 

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