Do you ever find yourself saying: “There’s just not enough hours in the day”
“There’s no time for me to do the things I want to do for myself”
“Kids, work, family – it’s all too much sometimes”
Sounds familiar? So what’s not right? What are the signs you’re getting? Just stop for a moment and ask yourself, ‘When was the last time I felt great health-wise, when life was ticking along smoothly, and I felt absolutely fabulous?’…. Yesterday? Last month? A few years ago? Or can you simply not remember?
These are the kind of comments I hear in practice regularly. And, in fact, if I’m completely honest, I’ve been there too, trying to manage everyone and everything. Take it from me, it doesn’t get you anywhere and eventually your body will start to give you the signs, but so often we’re just too wrapped up in life to take notice.
What are the signs?
[list_item] Increased levels of anxiety[/list_item]
[list_item]Emotional signs of being in a depressive state of mind, feeling frustrated, or short tempered[/list_item]
[list_item]Sleep problems – too much or too little[/list_item]
[list_item]Weight gain particularly around the midriff[/list_item]
[list_item]Memory and concentration impairment[/list_item]
[list_item]Changes in eating habits – over or under eating[/list_item]
[list_item]Do any of these ring bells with you? If so, then what are you going to do about it?[/list_item]
Fight or flight – How your body copes under stress
You may have heard the term ‘fight or flight’, which means essentially that human bodies are designed to react and be on high alert at certain important moments. Throughout human history this capacity has been an evolutionary advantage but in the modern world, many of us find ourselves being stressed out so much that we’re in ‘fight or flight’ emergency mode much too often for our own good. The truth is that we all need a bit of stress in our lives because rising to a challenge is important if we want to lead a fulfilled life. Stress becomes a problem when it goes up and stays up, leaving us in a chronic state of stress that can become destructive. Good stress, or what experts call ‘Eustress’, is invigorating, it gives us a buzz and is often linked to an end result and a tangible goal. Distress, by contrast, is often caused by free floating anxiety where we’re either lacking direction, procrastinating or not achieving our desired goal and that’s what then causes our fight or flight mechanism to backfire.
So how can we break this vicious cycle if we’re caught up in it?
Here are a few tips that I have found really useful to get me through the day when I feel my stress levels rising!
1. Practice gratitude
Start the day by practicing gratitude. It really does make a difference as it changes our mindset away from wanting more in life to being grateful for what we already have. By acknowledging those simple yet important things such as the air that we breathe, the health that we have, the roof over our heads and the people we have in our lives we will be raising our vibration, positioning ourselves in our desired outcome, enhancing our mood and making life so much more meaningful everyday…and just watch how quickly your list of things that you are grateful for grow longer!!
2. Practice deep breathing exercises
A 10 minute practice, ideally first thing in the morning, will set you up for the day. Use the time to sit peacefully with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Acknowledge any thoughts that come to your mind whether they’re about what you need to do today or worries and concerns that you may have. Visualise the thought by putting it in a bubble and letting it blow away from you and return your focus back to your breathing.
3. Write a list
Keep a day book, or a journal. Whatever works best for you. I have a day book in which I write down my daily activities, goals and what I need to achieve. Writing down exactly what you need to do is a great way to offload your mind and get some control in your life. Prioritise your list and work only on the tasks that are most important to achieve today. As you go through and achieve each task, tick off what you have completed. By doing this you are also accentuating the positives by recognising what you are actually achieving.
4. Know your limits and don’t be too hard on yourself
By recognising what you can and cannot change, you are actually being realistic with yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back with what great work you are doing each day instead of beating yourself up with what you haven’t achieved. The evidence is in your day book!
5. Learn to let go
Ask yourself a few simple questions like , ‘Is the thought that’s niggling me going to be just as important in a week, month or years’ time?’ or ‘Is this really my issue or someone else’s to deal with?’ If the answer to both questions is a clear ‘no’ then maybe it’s time to let that thought go. Another useful technique could be to write down your worries and concerns, write what you personally need to do to overcome them. If there are steps and actions you can take, write them down as an outline and tackle each one systematically. If there is nothing you can do to change the situation, then ‘let it go’ literally, try and let the thought go out of your mind, by visualising the issue in a balloon or bubble and watch it blow away from you. Another technique that works really well with me is by saying out loud, ‘there’s nothing I can do to change the situation and so I’m letting this worry be dealt with by the Universe’ Feel the release and how much more at peace you will be afterwards. It really does work!
6. Get enough sleep
Identify how much sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed. Each person’s requirements are different. Try to manage your evenings so that you do your best to gain the sleep hours you personally need. Many people find it hard to fall asleep, or perhaps fall back asleep during the night. It’s always a good idea to establish a routine before bed time, so take some simple steps that might help you unwind and relax a little before bed. For example start to unwind by drinking something warm perhaps, listening to some relaxation music or reading a book to relax the mind. If there’s a lot on your mind it’s a good idea to keep a notebook by your bedside where you can write everything down so that you can offload the thoughts from your mind.
7. Find a hobby and take time out for yourself
By having a hobby that involves physical exercise, you are realising chemicals that benefit your body. It could be yoga, playing squash, going to the gym, walking, running, swimming, or whatever resonates with you and suits your lifestyle. The important point is that you enjoy what you’re doing because it can really help you manage your stress levels more effectively.
8. Express your feelings
If someone or something is upsetting you then it may be that you need to communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way with the person concerned. By bottling up your feelings you are more likely to build up anger and resentment which will eventually lead to further health or relationship problems. If it’s something you can’t discuss directly with the person concerned then talk to someone else that you can trust and confide in. Don’t hold it all in!
9. Listen to Music
Music can have a very positive effect on our mood and emotions and has been used for centuries for that reason. Music, particularly slow soothing music, can have a positive effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. So next time you’re feeling down or things are getting on top of you, play your favourite music and absorb the positive effect it is giving your heart and mind.
10. Seek professional help
Life can be challenging for all of us, you’re not alone and it may be that you have already tried many of the things that I’ve mentioned above, but you are still not feeling quite right . Quite often in this instance we are ‘too in it’ to help ourselves and need someone who is detached from the situation to assist us in distinguishing the wood from the trees. If this is the case then perhaps you could benefit from additional professional support. Explore and try a therapy that resonates with you. There are many out there that address the mind as well as the body in a holistic way. Don’t lose hope, there is help at hand.
There are always things we can do to help ourselves relax and be happier in ourselves. I hope you have found the above tips helpful and I’d love to hear from you if you have any other ideas on how to keep stress under control. Take good care everyone! Please leave your comments below and come find me on Twitter and Facebook.