I can’t STRESS this enough

In May 2023, Trucker's Health7 MinutesBy Laura HulleyJune 13, 2023

It can often feel like we can never catch our breath or get a break from the demands of everyday life. As hard as it may seem, it is essential to prioritise downtime and manage stress. It is not good to constantly feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

What does stress have to do with health and fitness? Stress has a massive impact on our ability to look after ourselves. When we are stressed, healthy eating and exercise are often the first things to go out the window; we feel we don’t have time, or we crave ‘naughty’ comfort food. If we can keep our stress levels to a minimum and get adequate sleep, we are already on our way to building a healthy lifestyle (before we begin moving our bodies and eating well).

I am writing this article after a seven-day escape to beautiful Rarotonga. Although an overseas island holiday isn’t always doable (this was my first overseas trip since I was five), having something to look forward to can help you get through tough and stressful phases of life. This leads me nicely to my first tip in a collection of ideas for managing your stress levels.

1. Plan a getaway
This doesn’t mean booking a lavish escape to a Greek Island. It can be as simple as a night or two away in your favourite location, like a weekend in Taupo. Having something to look forward to can break up the monotony of the daily grind, and the trip itself will give you time to detox from the stresses of work or other life commitments.

2. Keep a diary
This doesn’t mean waking up and writing, ‘Dear diary…’ I mean it in the broader sense of keeping an electronic or paper list of what you need to tackle each day. Find a planning method that works for you and stick with it. If I offload my to-do list or thoughts to paper or a device, I feel more in control and have a better idea of what I need to do that day, week or month. Simply seeing what I need to tackle helps to clear my head and ease my stress. When you internalise all your commitments, stress can multiply and feel unmanageable.

3. Reach out for help
If you are struggling with your workload or life commitments, reach out to friends, family or someone you trust who can lift the load slightly. Depending on your work situation, this could be delegating certain tasks. If it’s a more personal matter, it could be messaging a friend to ask for their advice or help. I seek advice from friends and family daily to confirm how I’m tackling a task or to help navigate it. Even if it is just messaging my Mum to ask her how to cook a roast chicken. Getting small pearls of wisdom and help can add up to a big load of pressure lifted from your shoulders.

4. Prioritise your time
Sometimes it is just not doable to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ or juggle every commitment and easily execute each task. Sometimes you must make the difficult call of prioritising your time.

Working long hours, your time outside of work becomes even more precious. If you have a family, that often demands your time first before socialising or dealing with life admin tasks.

If your plate is completely full, it is okay to say no to certain things. Say no to the barbecue; your friends aren’t going to hate you if you miss one social outing because your plate is simply too full that week.

5. Be organised
This is easier said than done. The more organised and on top of other aspects of my life I am (grocery shopping, housework etc.), the more settled and confident I feel in tackling different areas of life.

Everyone has a different method of organising themselves, whether it be lists, calendars or charts. Establishing a routine can work wonders. This routine can be as simple as doing your grocery shopping at the same time and day every week (click and collect saves a lot of time). Arrange household chores to be done throughout the week so they don’t build up. This may sound like I’m telling you to suck eggs, but simple things can greatly impact on overall stress levels. How nice is it to come home to a clean house, food in the fridge and clean washing in the drawers?

6. Reduce caffeine
When you’re feeling a wee bit slow or unproductive, the temptation to indulge in coffee and energy drinks multiplies. While there is nothing wrong with having a coffee or two a day or an energy drink here and there, over-consuming caffeine does not do wonders for your stress levels. Caffeine can trigger your ‘flight or fight’ response, making you even more anxious, stressed or on edge.

Be mindful of how much caffeine you’re consuming over the week. If you drink an energy drink every day, try cutting this back to every second day and drinking a bit more water.

If you apply these six simple tricks (or even just a couple of them) to your life, they will positively impact your stress levels. If you can lower stress, you are more likely to get adequate sleep and make healthier choices around food and exercise. It all has a knock-on effect, but if we start from the base upward, I believe we can maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.