What is stress?

We all experience stress from time to time. Basically, stress is how your body reacts to feeling under pressure. It’s totally normal to feel some level of stress when you are faced with tricky or challenging circumstances. We’ve all been there, right?

When you feel stressed, your body automatically goes into fight-or-flight mode. It doesn’t matter what caused it - you could be avoiding a potential accident or worried about meeting a work deadline - the response in your body is the same.

You are biologically programmed to either face the stress and deal with it head-on or run away and hide. Your brain is instantly flooded with chemicals including adrenaline and cortisol. These are called ‘stress hormones’. 

How does your body react to stress?

When you feel the rush of these stress chemicals, this is what happens:

  • Your heart beats faster
  • Your breathing rate increases
  • Your muscles tighten
  • Your blood pressure rises
  • Your awareness is heightened

How does stress affect you?

Stress can make you feel overwhelmed and irritable. It can cause you to snap at other people, damaging your relationships with friends and family. This is not a good state to be in. 

Stress in the short term is called acute stress. It can be pretty handy and a positive thing. It can help you escape from something dangerous or focus on a deadline. It also doesn’t last very long. 

Symptoms might appear when you are late and stuck in traffic or if you have an argument with your partner. But the symptoms will fade after a while and you’ll be back to your regular self.

Chronic stress is different. This is when you experience stress over a long period of time. Feeling stressed can cause havoc with your body and your life. 

Your body is pretty well equipped to handle short bursts of stress. But over longer periods it has to work much harder to keep functioning normally. This can lead to problems like high blood pressure, depression and heart disease.  

What causes stress?

What causes one person to feel totally stressed might feel like a walk in the park for someone else.

Some of the top causes of stress are:

  1. Money and financial worries
  2. Work and high-pressure job roles
  3. Family and relationships
  4. Health and illness
  5. Traumatic events and change

Whatever the causes of stress, it is important to keep it in check. You don’t want stress taking over and ruining your life. 

Did you know that getting a good night’s sleep is one amazing way to reduce your stress levels? 

What’s the connection between sleep and stress?

When you don’t get the optimum amount of sleep, you become sleep deprived. Your brain produces higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline - these are the chemicals that make you feel stressed.

The problem is, that stress can cause insomnia. If worries are running around your head, it’s nearly impossible to fall asleep at all. But sleep needs to be a high priority if you want to reduce your stress levels and help you feel more relaxed.

What are the benefits of sleep?

Sleep is essential for restoring and rejuvenating the body and mind. Getting enough shut-eye at night is proven to have heaps of benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the ways a good night’s sleep can help.

Keeps you alert

When you are fully rested, you can keep on top of everyday challenges. It helps you feel more focused and on the ball. Whatever you need to achieve, you can get it done. You are in a much better state of mind to solve problems, finish tasks, remember things and make decisions.

Fixes the body

Whilst you sleep, your body gets busy repairing your cells and keeping you healthy. If you want better physical health then getting enough sleep is important. Most experts recommend between seven and nine hours of shut-eye a night. 

Good for your heart

During sleep, your body releases hormones. These hormones protect your heart health. If you aren’t getting enough zzz’s, your heart isn’t happy. Lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure and lead to heart disease in the long term. 

How does sleep reduce stress?

When we feel well rested, we feel ready to take on the world. When you wake up feeling like a zombie and can’t function without all the coffee, it can increase stress. 

Improves wellbeing

When you are able to fully relax and unwind, your stresses will float away. A good night’s sleep lets you wake with a new perspective on life and a happy feeling in your heart. Your mind feels nourished and you are able to cope with daily irritations. 

Boosts your energy

A pretty obvious benefit of quality sleep is that you wake up with more energy. When you are feeling energised, you can totally own that new fitness routine. And exercise is proven to reduce stress. It does this by reducing the levels of those pesky stress hormones and increasing the lovely feel-good ones. 

Regulates our emotions

Studies have shown a significant relationship between sleep and emotions. When you feel stressed, your emotions are all over the place. The littlest thing can tip you over the edge. During sleep, your brain can process all the stressful events you experienced during the day. This means you wake up in a more relaxed state of mind. Sleep gives you the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you and keep those outbursts under control. 

How to sleep when you feel stressed

When you are feeling stressed, it can be super difficult to get to sleep. When your mind’s on overdrive, switching off doesn’t come easy. Stressful thoughts can lead to insomnia and disturbed sleep. So what are the best ways to help you sleep?

Change your daily habits

Making some changes during your waking life can positively impact your sleeping time. 

  • Aim for a healthy diet. Junk food is totally tempting but it can cause inflammation in the body and make us feel more anxious. 
  • Head to the gym or take a walk. Getting some exercise during the day can make it easier to fall asleep at night. 
  • Avoid stimulants. Drinking alcohol or caffeine and smoking tobacco should be avoided in the hours before bed. 

Have a relaxation routine

A poor sleep routine can become a habit. To relax you ready for dream time you need a chilled-out bedtime routine. 

  • Unplug from social media and have some downtime away from scrolling before bed. You can do it!
  • Use some aromatherapy to help you unwind - RELAX can work wonders.
  • Try a luxurious soak in the bath with some essential oils.
  • Write down any worries or to-do tasks so they don’t interrupt your winding down time.
  • Do some deep breathing and relaxation exercises to calm your body and get you feeling zen.

Making some small changes can have a massive impact on your quality of sleep. Sleep deprivation and stress tend to go hand in hand. But it’s time to let go and become stress-free!