I teach, consult and write about stress because I am so very prone to running towards it.
I grew up pretty stressed, so it’s a familiar state that can border on self-abuse at times. I practice mindfulness, yoga and meditation as ways to help notice when I’m creating my own frenzied world, but of course sometimes life simply demands a lot from us. I’m self-employed and a mother, so control around daily content can be rather head-spinny.
Finding our own refuges to make time, space and peace are crucial for sanity, energy and quality of life. We all have the things that work for us, but here’s a window into my coping strategies:
1. Creating good boundaries
This is my biggest challenge; when self-employed or juggling several hats, it is difficult to carve out specific schedules and clear working end points. Sometimes we just have no choice but to work late to meet a deadline, even though we know late night tech disrupts sleep and interferes with full restoration. Good boundaries come from prioritising that rest is as crucial for completion as the action itself. Burning ourselves out is not a great long-term plan. Looking at areas where we steal time or waste energy can free up space we desperately need for recharge. Dropping unnecessary surfing, jobs that we can feel aren’t working, saying no when we need and having clear stop times can give our brains the rest they need to be effective.
2. Walking away
If you feel overwhelmed, over pressured or over stimulated, walk away. It’s vital to know your signs and listen and respond to them. For me, a tight head, breath-holding, shoulder tension and a knot in my solar plexus are clear signals of ‘enough’. That’s the time to not just take your hands away from the keyboard, but to take your whole self into another room. If you’re in an office, go to the loo. If you’re at home, go anywhere that feels calming and safe. If you can actually physically walk outside, all the better, the rhythmic motion and breath loosening will clear your head and release body stress.
3. Eating well
Being mindful of both what we eat and how we eat, helps create a nourishing space to recharge, as well as optimal digestion and satisfaction from food that prevents the likelihood of stress-related cravings and quick-fix snacks later on. Eating away from the desk or office is an important boundary to establish, to focus on eating alone rather than stealing energy from digestion. Starting the day with breakfast time – not just the food, but the occasion – sets the tone for how we prioritise our self-care as we work. Including protein like eggs, goat’s cheese, meat, fish or nuts here supports our ability to cope with stress and make better choices for the rest of the day. This simple change can have profound effects on repair when stress has left us feeling drained and overwhelmed.
4. Getting a good night’s sleep
Quality – not just quantity – of sleep is the benchmark to how we cope through the next day. Poor sleep means more likelihood of turning to energy ‘props’ like sugar and caffeine and making less healthy food choices, regardless of plans to take care of ourselves. It’s a downward spiral when these nutritional issues then translate into not getting to sleep, waking in the night or not feeling refreshed in the morning. Getting to bed by 10pm is ideal, as the first few hours before midnight are most restorative, but for those night owls, at least a couple of nights asleep by 11pm a night is a good start.
Blog written by Charlotte Watts, nutritionist and author of The De-Stress Effect