As I think about writing this article, I’m listening to the tweets of the young birds nesting in the roof above my office. I smile, relax my shoulders and give myself a few moments away from my laptop. It’s my first day back after a week’s leave and my list is huge.
In reality, the present moment is the only one that we can act in and yet we spend much of our energy thinking back over past actions or worrying about the future. We live in a world where perhaps we’re busier and more stressed than ever! So how can we give ourselves more energy, more health and more wellbeing?
When we are full of stress, running at 100 miles an hour with an overworked brain and tired body, we look for a quick fix
The 'squeezed' generation
First, let’s take a look at the problem. We are, I think, the ‘squeezed generation’. Our parents are living longer, our children have the option of more activities than ever before. With greater transport options we can travel more widely for our work and holidays. Our technological advances mean we can be online and available, on multiple platforms, 24/7. So we can instantly respond to work messages, requests from friends, and connection requests from strangers at any time of day.
When we are full of stress, running at 100 miles an hour with an overworked brain and tired body, we look for a quick fix. Stress feels uncomfortable and we panic, looking for a magical solution to instantly take that stress away. Is it an app that tracks our sleep? A session with a life coach? A week on a tropical island?
The solution is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Take a breath. Remove yourself from your office, your phone, and your watch. Just breathe. Repeat after me, ‘I am safe. I am well. I trust myself.’
Tune into your body, what’s happening? Is your heart racing? Are your shoulders up by your ears? Are you gritting your teeth? Observe your surroundings, are you in an office that feels relaxed or stressful? If you are at home are you surrounded by clutter? Are you doing work that you love to do? Are you interacting with people that make you feel good or bad?
Try to observe without judgement. Can you pinpoint factors that are adding to your stress levels? Have you had a really busy time that has felt like it’s gone on forever?
Our breath is an incredibly powerful mechanism for helping us to stay calm
Now you need to make some choices that will help to reduce your stress. Think of immediate, short term and long-term choices that will help you. Perhaps you can take an immediate short break: make a drink, take an early/late lunch.
Ensuring that we are hydrated and have good nutrition will, in my opinion always make things better, as will ensuring you get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. An overworked brain will reset itself with silence and/or nature.
Prioritise your self-care
Whether that’s an early walk, an evening with friends or a massage…we will all choose differently, but schedule in a few things that you know you will enjoy.
Talk to someone. Whether it’s a coach or mentor, your manager or HR person, or a close friend, someone needs to know that you need help and support. Perhaps they can adjust your work just for a week or two. Your friend may come with you on a walk so you have time to explore your feelings. A coach or mentor may help you look at your whole life picture to establish some longer-term aims and short-term goals.
Remember I said the first thing to do was breathe? Our breath is an incredibly powerful mechanism for helping us to stay calm. We talk about counting to ten when we are cross, breathing through pain, but there is also a useful technique that I use for stress reduction:
In for six…
This is a great technique to use throughout the day and before sleep to reduce stress levels.
Breathe in for the count of six (you may need to start with four if you are feeling stressed), hold that breath for the count of six, breathe out for the count of six and finally hold the out breath for the count of six. Repeat at least three times.
This breath will reduce blood pressure, encourage the flow of lymph and aid digestion. It can also help you get to sleep.
In a few months, you may be amazed at the energy and health you are now enjoying
Think about your future, is there anything you can do now to work towards some of the things you crave? An afternoon a month where you carve out your diary to create goals and plans, to identify where you are now and where you would like to be. Perhaps two or three weeks in advance you add in those gym or dance sessions, walks, socials or health appointments so you do make time? Can you prep for your week on a Sunday, getting in delicious foods and planning your meals?
Start small, adding in one new thing at a time. In a few months, you may be amazed at the energy and health you are now enjoying. Oh, and remember to breathe!