Stephanie Cuesta, Holistic Health and Fitness Coach, talks stress, sleep and belly breaths

Because April is Stress Awareness Month

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, stop what you’re doing and speak to someone who knows exactly what they’re talking about.

Stress Awareness Month is about addressing the implications of stress to inform, educate and inspire people. Maximising the power of platforms – digital and social media – to share ways to deal with stress is so important to affecting real change.

We spoke to Stephanie Cuesta, Holistic Health and Fitness Coach, to get some advice on keeping our cool so that we don’t stress over the small stuff.

Here’s what you need to know.


What stresses you out?
Other people’s stress as I have to deal with it on a daily basis as a Holistic Health Coach. I also find being disconnected from nature (I live in London) quite stressful.

Given what you do, is there a pressure to be stress-free?
No, we are all humans. I have the right to be stressed, and it actually helps people see how to deal with it and manage stress in a better way. It’s all about how you react to things, rather than what happens to you

What are the misconceptions surrounding stress?
There are five different types of stress, and often people don’t realise how all those stressors impact them. These types include physical (chronic) pain, mental (social pressure, constant negative self-talk), emotional (unrelieved emotions like anger or sadness), chemical (pesticides in low-quality foods, polluted air, WiFi, EMFs, laptops/smartphone/desktop screens) and spiritual.

The body manages each stress type in the exact same way – as if you were in the savanna facing a lion, it’s that famous fight or flight situation. In the mid to long term your body will start sending signals telling you that you need to decrease those stress levels that are detrimental, and this is what is called Adrenal Fatigue. I have previously written about this ailment as most people today suffer from it without even knowing – most of my clients do.

How much impact do sleep and diet have on stress?
Sleep and diet are essential staples for our daily lives. When our sleep and/or diet become unbalanced as a result of our lifestyle it can trigger various health problems – from hormonal disorder to digestive issues and even chronic diseases.

Having a balanced lifestyle is essential to strengthen your body and avoid many ailments. Your sleep pattern, the quality of your food, the way you move and your overall happiness (what is your purpose in life? What makes you happy? Why are you not doing it more often?) are so crucial.

Balancing things out is the first step to a better, happier and more energised life; that’s why I focus on each one of those principles with every client I coach.

How do you keep your cool?
I meditate every day. Even 5 minutes a day can make a difference and I have learned a lot about myself doing it. Again, it doesn’t matter what is happening to you, it’s the way you react to things that will impact you. Love yourself to the extent that you won’t accept not looking after your body and mind – practicing this every day will help you find the peaceful, happy place within.

Stephanie Cuesta

Today’s ALWAYS ON culture means that creative anxiety is a real issue (multi-screening and constant distraction); is it even possible to turn off now?

Of course it is, just switch your device off!

Leave your smartphone at home for a day and enjoy life, real life! I find that going back to nature, getting grounded in the grass (or sand if you are lucky!) is a powerful way to really switch off and take any bad energy out of the body. Again, it’s all about making your own health and wellbeing your priority. If you run late for your restaurant with your friends because of that, it doesn’t really matter, they can wait.

What’s your top tip for a quick stress-relieving fix (something that could be done on a lunch break for example)?

Do a couple of deep belly breaths. Inhale slowly counting to five, hold a bit, exhale slowly counting to eight and repeat; use the belly and not the chest (your belly gets bigger when you inhale, and then you squeeze it to exhale or push the air out). This is highly effective and has an immediate physiological effect on your stress hormones (cortisol).

What’s the worst case of stress you have seen?
The worst cases of stress are often the ones where someone has reached a state of desperation. This is often a very advanced state of Adrenal Fatigue which is when the body breaks down because warning signs have not been listened to. Often people with chronic diseases (arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cholesterol or diabetes) suffer from stress as they have been taking antidepressants for years and are subsequently reliant on them.

People who have become disconnected from their inner self are also susceptible to stress as they are unable to fill the void or cope with feeling lost.

My role is to get to the source, to the cause of someone’s condition whereas conventional medicine usually just treats the symptoms. That’s the holistic approach – considering the whole when analysing the part. By working on the deep initial cause we can help the body repair itself because that’s what your body wants; if you give it the right tools it will function the way it should. There is a lot of education involved around the principles of physical, mental and emotional health; unfortunately there is no quick fix but when people are determined to start changing their habits for the better, there is no turning back. They can quickly feel the difference, even if it is just the first step of the ladder.

For someone with limited time and financial stability – how would you advise tackling stress?
I am quite straight forward on this: when you put yourself as your first priority you always find time and money to do those things that you know are necessary.

Someone who says they have no time or money to do this or that often suggests they just don’t see the value of it (yet!) and that they’d rather spend their time and money on other things. There is no victim here, we are all creators of our own reality. And if you keep on doing the same things you have always done, you will always get the same things you have always got. When you understand how crucial this state of mind is, and that yes, you have the power to change things, you always do.

Taking care of your sleep pattern is free. Eating better healthier food is worth all the cars and cinema tickets and clothes you can buy. Moving your body in a balanced way can be free too. And staying aligned with yourself is free as well. So to me, this should never be a burden. When you really want it, you always find a way. If not, you find an excuse.

Inspired? Interested in learning more about Stephanie’s story and the services she offers clients? Head across to her website.

MORE: What stresses you out? How do you keep your cool? Push talks Stress Awareness Month

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