I wrote this post a while ago but with all that has been going on in my life recently AKA ‘Stress!’, I never got round to posting it. Better late than never. Also thought a stress post would be extremely relevant to this time – exam time for many – me included! Enjoy, Sx
Ps – photo below is of Mel during a lovely stress free period in Berlin. Ah, the magic of European summers.
Stress. It’s a word that gets thrown around a fair bit isn’t it. Stress for some is manageable; it’s even somewhat motivating. Gets you pumped for whatever it is that you’re doing. An adrenaline high. Who needs caffeine when you have your own natural sources? Stress can be good then, right?
For some though, stress is far from good. Caffeine like highs turn into suffocating panic attacks, and a sense of motivation to ‘get up and go’, turns to a sense of total overwhelm, overdrive and exhaustion. This is when the stress that can be good, turns into a chronic state of anxiety.
I was one of those people. Where the suffocating and overwhelming feelings of stress took a hold of me nearly everyday. It was like I was trapped in my very own self-induced version of hell. Overthinking everything and calculating every single possible outcome of a given situation – all of this in my head, before the event had even happened! Mental energy just wasted. Hours of my life wasted.
Anxiety has been a part of my life for years now. It was something that I just accepted as being apart of me. Like an aspect of my personality that I couldn’t change. Over the past few months though, things have changed. Although I am still prone to overthinking everything I’ve come to the point where I am able to step back and not let the thoughts take over me (as much). It is hard work and a daily practice but I am feeling so much better for it. I am hoping that from reading this post maybe something will resonate with you leading to small changes you could implement in your own life.
Stress and anxiety are so prevalent in todays’ society. So many social pressures and expectations it’s almost impossible to avoid the occasional stress that comes with it. But I believe there is a way to move past it, a way to create a sense of space between yourself and the irrational thoughts. Now I am not claiming to be ‘anxiety free, I am far from it. Believe me. But what I do have now are some tools that have helped me along the way. They’ve helped me in reconnecting with myself, respecting and accepting myself for who I am. I can also resort back to these tools when I feel I’ve been pumping out too much cortisol and taking too little time for myself. Honestly, this happens all the time. Update – AKA – currently in this state as I sit my exams! I’m always reminding myself to follow my own rules.
My number one tool would have to be meditation. Mel and I completed a course in Vedic meditation with an amazing teacher, Laura Poole, last September. This twice a day meditation has by far been my most valuable tool in combating anxiety. Although I occasionally will miss my afternoon meditation (I am working on it!), and sometimes I miss a day all together, I definitely do feel much better and lighter when I am consistently practicing. Its one of those things that you don’t even realize is doing you a whole lot of good until you are put in situations that would normally stress you out but instead you move through them with total ease. It really is amazing. It’s the commitment part of it that’s hard to implement. It takes time and I’m still learning this myself but its completely worth it.
Next up would be setting up a morning routine. This is a something that I have been doing for years. Mornings have always been my favourite time of the day. I have written a post about the power of the early hours, you can read it here. Morning routines are extremely grounding and comforting. My morning routine always includes meditation, some sort of movement, a shower and moisturizing with coconut oil, delicious organic coffee and a nourishing breakfast that always includes eggs, avocado, butter/ghee/olive oil. Or a bowl of warming oats with added ghee, coconut yoghurt, nuts and seeds. All the fatty good stuff nourishing your brain, hormones and skin whilst also providing you with long lasting energy. Delicious. My movement of choice ranges really from yoga to a quick workout, or just a simple stretch on my yoga mat, but one of my favourites during the summer time is a long beach walk as the sun is rising. When done consistently, these ritualistic practices are a potent form of self love and enable you to welcome the day with total bliss. You’re able to plan out your dairy, tune into how you’re feeling, maybe write some goals and nourish your body. The trick is choosing practices that really make you feel good. Don’t get up at 5 am and go running if you hate running. Do some yoga stretches or a strength workout instead. Don’t make yourself a green smoothie if a warm cooked breakfast is really what makes you glow. And don’t attempt to meditate for half an hour each morning, trying to cultivate a sense of yogic ‘zen’ if you’ve never meditated before, you’ll only frustrate yourself. Start with five minutes of deep breathing before your coffee instead. Do you see what I mean? Find what YOU love, not what you think you SHOULD love. Everyone is different. What will work for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Stay true and be honest with yourself. That’s where the magic lies.
Hypnotherapy is tool number 3. Now I know this is something that not everyone will be open to, nor will everyone have access to but I thought I’d just give it to you guys anyway. I myself am still totally new to it so I’ll report in more depth when I’ve had a little more experience with it. What I can say however is that it is something that totally blew my mind. After my first consult I was blown away as to how you are able to fall into a hypnotic state so quickly. This is a big deal for someone who has a mind that never stops running! That’s all I’ll say on this topic, as I really just don’t know all that much about it. All I know is that it’s incredible.
Self-care is another one. The concept of ‘loving yourself’ can sound so unfamiliar. It did to for me. When you are in a constant state of self-criticism, rejection and irrational thinking, the idea of actually comfortably saying ‘I love myself’ literally made me feel all squirmy and awkward. I am still working on it but it gets easier. Mel has become quite the self-care queen. She takes herself out for coffee, out for lunch, to yoga alone, gets regular massages, Ayurvedic appointments etc. I’m a little further behind in my self-care practices, largely because I just didn’t know where to begin. But I am getting there. Slowly, but surely. As I write this I am sitting in one of my favourite coffees, listening to lovely music and sipping my favourite drink. I’m also about to get my hair cut at my favourite salon. An indulgence that I put aside for so long because of internal dialogue that went a little like this – ‘I can’t afford it and my hair is so thin it doesn’t deserve to get cut by someone professional anyway’. I love getting my haircut so here I am, about to do something I love. There, proof I am trotting along my self-care path. For more self love inspiration visit here.
Last but not least is as simple as not putting so much on your plate. Stop trying to jam-pack your days filled with to do’s. Your mental health is far more important than ticking all those things off your list. Although some may thrive off having numerous things in the day to complete, others, like me, cannot handle it. I no longer view this aspect of myself as a sense of weakness or an inability to deal with deadlines. I’ve now adopted the view that for me to thrive and function at my best, I need to allow as much free space in my day as I can. Just a different way of functioning, that’s all. Having two ‘big’ things on in one day works well for me. For example, I can handle a morning shift at work followed by an afternoon at uni but add a dinner party straight from class and that would just throw a spanner in the works. Do you see what I mean? If I can set aside either the morning, afternoon or the evening in my day where I can just have to myself then I know I won’t feel too overwhelmed. It’s a tight balancing act. Maybe it also has something to do with being an introvert – alone time and drawing inwards.
So these are my five tools to deal with stress and anxiety. I hope they are as useful to you as they are to me. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about myself in the process and as I mentioned earlier, it’s a daily practice. It’s actually taken me years. And sometimes I forget about my own tips, and get caught up in the whole overwhelm of life but hey that’s okay too. We’re human, not perfect.
I don’t think we can be totally ‘stress free’. We need stress – it’s just the type of stress and the reasons behind its initiation that’s important to understand. We need a sense of ‘get up and go’ and sometimes we unquestionably do need to feel a sense of urgency. Like in emergencies and studying for exams and all of those urgent types of scenarios. What we do not need however is anxiety and the irrational and unnecessary activation of our flight or fight system that comes with it. Unnecessary stress is slowly weakening our society, pushing it towards ill health and chronic disease. It’s about time we all do something about it. Don’t you think?
Love to you all,