Sunday 27 May 2018

Week 1: What happens to our bodies when we don’t take time to shut off

Picture posed
Picture posed
Karl Henry

Karl Henry

Welcome to the first instalment of my new series: 'How to Relax Well.' In the modern age of phone addiction and busy schedules with little or no work/life balance, we are more unwell than ever before.

The reality is that by not devoting time to relaxation, we are putting our physical health, our mental health and our waistlines at risk. We are walking around stressed up to our eyeballs and that stress is sabotaging your chances of leading a healthy life. By relaxing more during the day, week and month, you can change your life, your health and also the lives of those around you and it's not nearly as tough as it seems.

I think the word 'relax' conjures up ideas of headstands, yoga and herbal teas, and while these can help you relax, they tend to put people off even trying to. Over the coming weeks, I am going to look at different components of relaxation and how to fit them into different parts of your day. They're simple, effective and easy to do - it's all about reducing your stress levels.

But before we get to that, let's take a look at what happens to our bodies when we don't relax, and the health problems arising from our inability to shut off...

Emotionally, you are far more likely to:

  • feel overwhelmed;
  • have low self-esteem;
  • be in a bad mood;
  • want to avoid interaction with others;
  • feel like to you want to burst into tears for no reason;
  • feel like you have a heavy weight on your shoulders;
  • feel cranky and irritable.

Physically, you are far more likely to have:

  • headaches;
  • low energy;
  • insomnia;
  • muscle pain;
  • chest pain;
  • illness;
  • higher waistline;
  • low libido;
  • upset stomach and digestion issues;
  • excess sweating;
  • loss of appetite;
  • weight loss or weight gain;
  • increased risk of serious health issues;
  • neck and shoulder issues.

Those are pretty long lists and it's scary when you look at just how much of an impact being wound-up has on your health. But what about the effect on your work day? Here are some consequences:

  • you will work less productively;
  • work will become less enjoyable;
  • your body will be placed under more tension and pressure while in work;
  • you're less likely to come up with ideas and interact less.

All of those effects will have a negative influence on your life and the lives of those around you. It will have a huge impact on your home life too - how many rows you have with your family, your friends or your other half all simply because you are stressed out.

One of the fantastic changes in Ireland in the past 10 years or so is that we now feel comfortable talking about mental health. An inability to relax is one of the main drivers for mental health issues - it can be one of the causes of depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Talking about how you're feeling is a great starting point, admitting that you are stressed, wound up or something even more serious. Once you admit it, you can do something about it.

The tips I am going to give you in the coming weeks will help you to tackle your stress levels and your mental health. Just take each week as it comes and watch the difference it makes.

But as always, we have to start by taking some measurements. This week I want you to make two lists. The first is a simple rating: rate your stress levels today, now, reading this column. On a scale of one to 10, how stressed are you right now?

The second list I want you to make is the list of all the things that are causing you stress. It doesn't matter how big or how small. Next, place those lists somewhere you can see them and we are going to work with them over the coming weeks. For now, stay chilled!

In this Saturday's Weekend, read Karl Henry's guide to spring cleaning your lifestyle.

Irish Independent

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