Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Stress Awareness Month




In the last few decades stress has become more and more part of our daily living and culture. We seem to live in a society that doesn't know how to stop and is forever getting busier and busier, worst of all this is seen as a positive way to live your life and that those of us who don't live this way are simply lazy. I don't know about you but I have definitely been made to feel guilty for living a slower more mindful way of life, as though somehow my life and achievements are worth less because I don't rush around all day long. If you have been reading this blog for a while now you will know I am a big advocate of a slower more simpler way of living. I feel our society has really lost touch with what is important and lives in a constant state of what's next rather than learning to enjoy the present.

Did you know that common side effects of stress include: Headaches, chronic fatigue, stomach problems, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, depression, lack of motivation, eating problems, drug/alcohol abuse..... I could go on. Stress is very bad for our bodies but unfortunately as a society we are becoming more and more stressed each day. April is stress awareness month and I really wanted to write a post encouraging people to think more about their stress levels and give some tips on how they can reduce them.

I used to be a very stressy person. I grew up in a household where it was normal to be busy or stressed all the time and I didn't realise that there was another way. Luckily I met my husband, who is the most relaxed person I know, and I began to realise that all those little things I stressed about like missing the bus or knocking over a glass of water weren't worth being stressed about. Stressing wasn't going to fix the fact I was going to be 20 minutes late or that there was water all over the floor, in fact it wouldn't help at all. And so slowly but surely over the last three and half years I have been with my husband I have learnt to become a more relaxed and less stressed person. I still have a long way to go (as I'm sure my husband would tell you!) but I am in a much happier place now. Because I learnt not to stress about the little things, I have also been able to learn not to stress about the bigger things. I was incredibly ill just days before my wedding, so ill that I almost ended up in hospital the night before, but the one thing that my Mum said afterwards was she couldn't believe how calm both my husband and I were. She said she was so proud of us for being so calm in such a difficult situation. We knew we couldn't change the fact I had food poisoning and so we just got on with it but I wouldn't have been able to do that had I not learnt to stop stressing about all those little things over the years.

If you find that you are often feeling stressed, anxious and rushed off your feet then here are a few tips to help you find some peace in your life.

Breathe:

This might sound cheesy and a bit obvious but breathing when stressed is really important. When I am stressed about a situation I will often find that I am holding my breath or taking small shallow breaths. Taking deep breaths is a great way to relax you and give you a focus on something else for a bit. Next time you are stressed try to sit back or lie back if you can, put your hands on your tummy and take in a deep breath through your nose, feel your stomach fill up with air and when you feel you can't get anymore in then breath out through your mouth with a sigh. Try that a few times concentrating on the rhythm of your breath as you do so. It might feel a bit strange at first but this is something I try to do as much as I can when I am stressed. It always helps to relax me, take my focus away for a few minutes and then let me come back to the problem with a calm mind much better suited to fixing whatever it is.


Eat Properly:

Stress eating has always been a big problem of mine. Whenever I felt anxious or stressed I would reach for a chocolate bar or some sweets. But stress eating makes the situation so much worse. When you eat a sugary snack your blood sugar will shoot up giving you a high energy buzz but just as soon as quickly your energy levels will come crashing back down again. That feeling of a sudden spike and then a quick downhill is much more likely to cause anxiety or stress and in fact is often reminiscent of small anxiety attack. When I used to suffer with anxiety if I binged on sugary foods my body would feel anxious and on edge as though I were about to have an anxiety attack at any moment. One of the best things you can do to help with stress is to eat three wholesome balanced meals a day that will keep your blood sugar level. Skipping breakfast is a sure way to make you feel more tired, anxious and unable to cope during the day so make sure you make it a priority. If you need a snack make sure its a healthy one that will help give your body the right kind of energy, like an apple or a boiled egg.

Think About It:

One trick that has really helped over the years and especially during my bad times with anxiety was to think about what I was anxious or stressed about. I know that sounds like the opposite of helpful but hear me out. The key is not to stress more about the problem or anxiety but instead to attack it head on. Ask questions like why am I anxious/stressed about this? What will this do to help it? Can I change it by being stressed/anxious about it? For example - you have a train to catch and you're worried you will miss it - and you ask but why would you miss it? - Because I don't get on the bus on time - And then what will happen? - I will have to get another bus and another train - And what will that do? - Cost me money- And is that so bad? - No. That is a very simplified example obviously you could keep going and keep going but the trick is to come to the conclusion that there is always a way of fixing a problem. That no problem is so great that it is worth making yourself ill with stress over.

Slow Down:

This is a really important one and something I think everyone needs to learn to do. If you're stressed regularly, you feel under pressure and like you're always trying to catch up with life then it's time to sit down and reevaluate. Look at everything in your life and think is this worth being that stressed for? What can I do to reduce my stress? What can I stop doing or start doing to help? Give yourself the permission to say no to things. It might feel hard at the beginning but it is so important to learn when you can and can't do something. Yes you could probably fit that extra thing in but is it worth all the stress and business that will come with it? Also don't be afraid to take time out for you. Me and my husband are out doing something nearly every night of the week now and a lot of that stuff we really enjoy doing but we are also aware of how important it is to keep one night a week where the two of us sit down and watch Big Bang in our PJs. Friday is a PJ night and we try to stick to it religiously. Not only does it give us the much needed rest we need at the end of the week it is also something to look forward to when things feel busy. I know that on Friday I will put down all my stresses and worries and just relax for the evening. Slowing down and taking time out should be your priority.

Those are just a few of my tips for dealing with stress. I really hope you found something helpful. I'd love to know what your tips are for dealing with stress, please leave me a comment below.


  
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