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What to do about Stress in the City

Megan is an Escape member and qualified reflexologist, specialising in stress and fertility. Reflexology is the technique of applying pressure to the reflexes on the feet and hands in order to bring about a deep state of relaxation, stimulating the body’s own healing processes and helping a person to return to a state of balance and well-being. The reflexes correspond to various parts, organs and glands in the body, having an effect on their own function and well-being. To find out more, or to book a reflexology session, email meganrussell@about.me

How many times would you describe yourself as ‘stressed’ in your average week? When that last-minute deadline comes in? When you have to stand in someone’s armpit on an already delayed tube to work? When you lie awake at night mentally writing your ‘to-do’ list for tomorrow?

Why are we stressed?

London is an incredible place, but it is also the most stressful city in Europe (as surveyed by Easyjet… the irony of it being the most stressful airline has not been lost).

Unfortunately stress has become what many busy city workers live off, from company expectation to self-inflicted pressure to make as much money as the next stressed Blackberry-using Londoner.

Stress is one of the most common complaints I get from clients, with its trigger usually being ‘hating my job’ or ‘feeling stuck’. But while we can all relate in some way, the physical and mental effects of stress should not be underestimated.

How does stress affect you?

Firstly stress stimulates the fight or flight reflex, producing adrenalin. This reflex was designed to help us escape from wild beasts, not our boss’ late night demands. So actually our fight or flight is being put into use more often than necessary.

This puts severe strain on the heart; as your heart beats faster your blood pressure increases, your arteries constrict and your immune system drops as all your body’s blood rushes to the vital organs for ‘survival’.

When stressed, have you ever noticed that you literally cannot think? That is because all the blood has left your brain to be used elsewhere. Useful when escaping grave danger, not your latest presentation.

As this is happening, your adrenals pour out cortizone. This is released to reduce pain, but in large doses actually poisons the brain, causing memory loss and/or depression. In your other systems, your liver is fast producing glucose for energy, which in high doses can cause diabetes. Your digestive system shuts down, unable to absorb proper nutrients and causing malnutrition.

The body calls on fat reserves to be used as energy. This causes hardening of the arteries and narrowing of vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

That is huge amount of activity to take place every single day in the body. And as you can see, this activity is definitely not positive.

So what should you do about Stress in the City?

Firstly, understand what it is that causes you stress. The first step towards managing stress better is to realise when things are getting on top of us. Note down what triggers your stress levels to rise on an average week, and reflect upon it.

Secondly, understand how to unwind. Learn how to de-stress through reflexology, light exercise, eating healthily. Reading articles on how to fight stress can also help.

And thirdly, and most importantly, do something about it. If it is your job that causes you stress, you have to wonder whether it is worth the damage it is doing to your health? While so many Londoners accept the side effects their stress has caused, why should you do the same? As the saying goes:

‘Remove the rock from your shoe rather than learn to limp comfortably’.
- Inneractions by Stephen C. Paul and Gary Max Collins.