By Suzy Reading, Neom’s Psychology Expert.
C.Psychol, B.Psych (Hons) M.Psych, REPS, BWY Accredited.
The Neom Organics stress audit results are in and it is pretty staggering. A whopping big 9 out of 10 women in the UK are stressed, with 36% agreeing that they were stressed every day. On an encouraging note over half of respondents state that taking time to look after their health and wellbeing is a priority. Hooray! People are finally giving themselves permission to put self-care on the agenda. However, it seems we have a way to go before this is a daily occurrence, with 49% of women feeling they don’t have enough time to look after themselves.
Why can’t we ignore stress?
- Stress isn’t going to go away – it is a normal part of everyday life. In fact life would be pretty boring without some stress to keep us on our toes, evolving and growing. It’s no good saying “I’ll be happy when…” The day when there is no stress is the day we are pushing up daisies. We need to get on with reclaiming our vitality now.
- Stress has a cumulative effect. Putting out heads in the sand and attempting to deal with it later wreaks havoc with our health and takes a toll on our relationships, work life and family life.
- Too much stress is dangerous. Stress lies at the heart of myriad of physical and mental health conditions. Quite simply the evidence is overwhelming that too much stress (either in intensity or in duration) makes us fat and ill. We just can’t afford to be complacent about our stress levels. It goes beyond our health and wellbeing – too much stress greatly diminishes our ability to enjoy life and can put the kibosh on happiness. We have to take action now.
Significantly, the audit revealed the greatest antidote to feeling stressed was ‘more time’… now what if I told you that you actually don’t need more time to destress?! Sounds good? It is totally do-able without requiring any more time in your day. It’s about doing those everyday things with a different focus, a different perspective, a fresh pair of eyes. Here’s how…
10 ways to de-stress in no extra time:
- Meditative shower – hop in and be fully alive to the sensations of having a shower. Don’t let your mind wander to worries or what needs doing, just be present and let the water unwind you. Immerse yourself in the sensation of the water against your skin, connect with the cleansing properties of it, feeling your troubles slide off your shoulders with the water droplets, enjoy the scent of the shower gel, and enjoy the warmth of the experience.
- Look up – When you’re out and about, simply look up rather than down at your feet. Research has demonstrated a significant link between our posture, mood and subjective energy levels. Be on the lookout for beauty in the nature or architecture around you. Don’t let your mind sink into worry or rumination.
- Music – Listen to something uplifting or soothing. Try out some classical. Couple music with an activity you don’t love so much or that you find stressful. Music can transform the way you feel about it.
- Celebrate the wins – the next time a friend of loved one is telling you about some success, use ‘Active and Constructive Responding’. This is when you demonstrate a genuine interest, ask lots of questions, encourage your loved one to relive the event with you, and reflect back to them that you share their joy. At the other end of the continuum there is “passive-destructive” and “active-destructive” responding where respectively the good news is ignored or the response given is openly critical or dismissive. Boosting our relationships is a sure fire way to increase happiness and beat the ravages of stress.
- Curb your self-talk – only talk to yourself as you would your best friend. So much of the way we feel is amplified by what we are saying to ourselves. Cultivate a little self-love and compassion and feel your stress levels drop. If you wouldn’t say it to your best mate, don’t say it to yourself.
- Give a hug – loving touch is a potent destresser so don’t skimp on cuddles. Notice I said ‘give’, not ‘have’. There’s much joy and replenishment to be found in kindness. Sometimes it’s less about you and your needs and more about how you can help out others. Everyone wins.
- Savour a meal, snack or treat – when you are eating, savour the flavour of the food, the sensation in your mouth as you chew and the effects it has on you. Don’t let a moment of joy escape you. You might find that one square of chocolate eaten like this is enough!
- Feel your breathing. Don’t do anything to change your breathing and don’t try to breathe a certain way. Just feel the sensations of your breath. Notice the inhalation, the pause after you breathe in, the exhalation and the pause after you breathe out. Do this at any time in your day and your breath will tend to smooth itself out. In my experience it is impossible to feel stressed when you are breathing well. My mantra: spacious breath, spacious mind. If you’d like a guided meditation on the breath, check out this one here: https://youtu.be/AdfV5eEFHgM
- Take a gratitude walk – the next time you are out walking, count your blessings. Think of all the things in your life right now for which you are thankful. Think of small things in your day that have gone well. Think of events in your life that have opened doors. Think of ways that you are growing and cultivate a deep feeling of gratitude for what is, what has been and what might be.
- Exercise your right to CHOOSE – give yourself permission to say no, to say yes, and to take the action that your health and wellbeing is crying out for. Be selective, minimise or avoid anything that depletes you. Don’t watch the evening news, skip getting together with the friend that steals your sunshine, or stay in if you need an early night! Choose your company, choose your activities and take ownership for your health and wellbeing.
At the heart of these suggestions lie the skills of mindfulness, savouring, gratitude, kindness and compassion. These skills don’t take much effort or energy to employ and certainly don’t eat up your precious time. In fact the more you do them, the more your energy grows, the more capable you feel in taking action, the more creative and resourceful you become in response to stress and the greater the buffer you build against future stress. You are building your inner reserves, your resilience to weather stress and your ability to recover from it. Look for more ways to put these life-giving skills to use and you will feel your stress levels plummet and your health and happiness soar! Don’t wait, get stuck in today.
Suzy is a Chartered Coaching Psychologist specialising in stress management, healthy lifestyle change and private yoga. She is passionate about helping parents navigate the changes and challenges that come with the joys of parenthood. She is available for stress management sessions at Carmenta Life – both coaching and private yoga, and you can join her Mummy and Baby Yoga class on Mondays at 1:30pm. For more details, check out www.suzyreading.co.uk