02.11.18 Learn Blog SumoSalad

We’ve been focusing on improving our mental wellness over the past few weeks and today we spoke to leading fitness and wellness coach Timo Topp about how to identify and manage the stress in our lives. Timo has some amazing advice for you so read on….

Managing our mind and taking steps to sooth stress is one of the most important investments we can make to enhance how we feel and improve quality of life.

We must invest in our mindset to upgrade our enthusiasm because without it we won’t be motivated to act and without action we don’t get things done. And we must build mental resilience to be equipped for the tough times that are a natural part of life. So, what is stress, what does it do to our body, what are the signs we are experiencing stress and what are the BEST ways to sooth stress, optimise mindset and feel better about life…

A good thing gone bad

Whilst stress may seem bad, it is actually a good thing. It is a physiological response to danger to save your life. It mobilises resources, stimulates certain systems and inhibits non- essential ones for you to deal with danger – so you can either ‘fight or flight’. The trouble is our stress these days is no longer physical: a wild animal or a marauding neighbouring tribe, it is now mental and emotional. However, we still get a physical response to our mental woes which causes a big problem for us.

What does stress do to your body?

Your body and all its processes are controlled by the autonomic nervous system which is comprised of two systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Stay with me…

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your fight or flight response and is stimulated by stress. It releases activating hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. It is a catabolic process, meaning it breaks things down to free up resources for you to take action.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for growth, repair, reproduction and immunity. These things are not essential in the event of danger so they are inhibited by stress. This is why long term stress causes problems with digestion, on-going minor ill-health and low sex drive.

The long and short of it is, stress heightens your responsiveness and effectiveness in the short term – which can be useful for occasional important events – but over the long term it wears you down and effects your health and quality of life which is why we need to understand it, recognise it and manage it effectively because the reality is: Life is full of stressful moments that we must manage.

Look out for the road signs: Stop, revive and thrive

With all this doom and gloom there is good news. We can learn to recognise the road signs we are not doing too well and take steps to manage it. Let’s first look at some of the signs of stress.


Muscle tension
Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
Erratic breathing
Chest tightness
Raised pulse rate
Digestive issues
Low sex drive


Difficulty concentrating
Feeling anxious or nervous
Extended periods of feeling sad or hopeless
Easily angry or irritable
Negative outlook


Loss of enthusiasm
Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
Feeling or acting in isolation
Withdrawing or withholding affection
Increased use of stimulants (alcohol, food, cigarettes)
Feeling like giving up or checking out

Accept or Act

In addition to being aware of the signs of stress, it is important to identify the situations that cause your stress. You can group these into two groups; one’s you can do something about and one’s beyond your control.

You can’t do much about the weather, your boss (well you could quit your job) or the traffic jam so what is the point stressing about them? You have to learn to Accept them and build resilience to deal with them. With one’s you can control, you can take proactive Action to do something about them.

This is an extremely powerful way to disempower your stressors – either act or accept or do both! This will revolutionise how you feel!


The two best ways to sooth stress

I’m going to share with you the two best ways to dissipate stress and explain why

Don’t just read this, do it and FEEL BETTER…

We said at the start that stress causes a physical response despite the fact our stress is primarily mental and emotional. This why exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress.

Exercise dissipates that physical response, it’s that simple.

Stress prepares you for fight or flight, exercise uses the resources that are mobilised. Case closed. So, if you have had a bad day don’t light a cigarette, eat comfort food or poor a glass of wine – go for a walk or hit the gym. Aerobic exercise is particularly good for stress so get out for a fast walk, run, bike or swim and you feel so much more invigorated and inspired.

Modern day stress is mental and emotional: busy thoughts and worries, right? You need to buy yourself some mental downtime. You need to give your brain some non-thinking time. This is what meditation does. It gives your mind some space to NOT THINK. Consider, how often do you ever STOP and NOT THINK. Probably never or near to it. A lot of people are too busy to meditate or can’t even do it – this represents the need to do it. I am a realist. I am not suggesting you meditate an hour before sunrise or an hour at sunset as our Buddhist friends might suggest. Let’s start with simply sitting quietly for 5 MINUTES, close your eyes and bring your thoughts to follow your breathing. Busy thoughts will no doubt flood your mind but consciously dismiss them and bring your attention back to your breathing. Even 5 minutes will help you feel better. To facilitate relaxation try doing this somewhere quiet or in nature such as in the park or download some guided meditation apps and do on the train home instead of social media.


Other strategies to sooth stress, enhance enthusiasm and manage a positive mindset

Laughing releases feel good hormones. Laughter sooths the soul. Laughter helps us feel good. The British (that’s me) are experts at creating comedy and laughing at the most dire situations, why? Because it helps tough times seem less intense. A smile on the dial physiologically helps us to feel better. So after a tough day, dig out your favourite comedy show or catch up with some really good friends for a belly curling laugh – with them, not at them.

It is human nature to focus on what’s not working and what’s troubling us. If we flip that around to what IS working, what is WONDERFUL and what we LOVE, focus on our WINS for the day we can completely change our state of mind to a healthy, more content place. In fact, studies have shown that people who practise gratitude recover better from serious ill-health and have a better quality of life. You might even call this reframing or changing your perspective. If you start your day with thoughts of gratitude, you will have a better day and whatever stresses you have will feel slightly less significant – you will disempower them. Also, ending your day with thoughts of gratitude will help you to have a better night’s sleep. After all, isn’t it better to go to bed on thoughts of what went well rather than all the things that are troubling you or need to do? You may like to keep a visual gratitude board that you look at everyday with photos of friends, family, fun times and achievements or keep a gratitude diary.

Writing a journal is a great way to get busy thoughts out of our head and onto paper where we can better rationalise them and come up with potential solutions. You could consider a journal as your own personal counsellor, a place to confide how you really feel, for no one else to see or hear. It is a powerful way to process thoughts, emotion and things troubling us. You don’t just have to write about doom and gloom. You may also use it to record your wins and successes which is also important to help you feel good, that you are actually making progress and accomplishing things in life. A journal is simply a private place to get your thoughts out of your head and buy some mental clarity.

Stay Inspired
Life can be full of mundane routine and we can easily lose our joy, motivation and enthusiasm. We must invest time and effort to stay inspired. Be inspired by people of influence: good people doing great things, people who have achieved incredible successes or who have overcome incredible odds. Read their books, listen to podcasts, watch movies or go and see them speak live. Have positive people around you and spend less time with the ones that drag you down.



Stress is a normal part of life.. We cannot avoid it. We should honour and respect it because it does make us stronger and better. We should be its master rather than its slave, so we can have a better quality of life and Feel Good

Learn to recognise:

The physical and emotional signs of stress
Your stressors – the thing that cause your stress

You can then either:

Take action to do something about it, or
Accept what you cannot control (easier said than done, granted)

The best ways to manage stress are:

Exercise to dissipate the physical stress response
Meditation to claim back some peace for a busy mind

And these things will enhance mindset and build a healthier perspective on life:

Laugh more and often
Practise gratitude to appreciate what’s good in your life
Journal to process busy, worrying thoughts to get them out of your head and onto paper where you can better rationalise them
Invest in staying inspired


Timo Topp is a fitness and wellness coach with 25 years international experience. It is his mission to help busy people live a better quality of life through fitness and wellbeing. In a world of conflicting, confused advice and complex fitness programs that can be too hard to follow, Timo offers down to earth ‘workable’ advice that you can work into your busy day and it is proven to ‘work’ – to help you look, feel and perform at your best, at work and for living life. He is a published author and speaker on workplace wellness and loves to share content, so please get in touch!   www.timotopp.com  |  www.facebook.com/sydneystopptrainer   |  www.linkedin.com/in/timotopp


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