The Australian Psychological Society defines stress as a “feeling of being overloaded, wound up, tight, tense and worried. We all experience stress at times. It can sometimes help to motivate us to get a task finished, or perform well. But stress can also be harmful if we become over-stressed, interfering with our ability to get on with our normal life for too long.”
Whilst you may have a great picture or catalogue of ideas of your dreamy self-care activities, are you actually doing them?
It’s great to have the awareness and idea’s how to look after yourself in a positive way, however all means nothing if you aren’t putting into practice!
Under extended periods or chronic stress, our need for self-care is required to restore balance to a frazzled nervous system.
If you are experiencing any of the following, it’s time to love yourself to healing.
· Anxiety, Brain fog, memory problems, racing mind
· Tiredness, weakness, lethargy, shakiness
· Muscle loss and weight gain, particularly around stomach – this is where stress shows up!
· Weakened immunity- Inability to heal, illness, cold sores
· Digestive issues, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation.
· Cholesterol issues, high blood pressure
· Poor sleep – finding it hard to get up in the morning even after 8+ hours sleep, or inability to get to sleep
· Cravings for salty or sweet foods or stimulants- i.e. coffee, alcohol
· Emotionally reactive, anger, frustration, depression or feelings of despair
Chronic and repeated exposure to stress can create compounding issues. Each time you are exposed to a new stressor it’s as if a trigger has been pulled, releasing hormones that trigger a cascade of issues. Unfortunately, it takes less and less each time for the “trigger” to be released.
Looking after yourself and ensuring that there is time allocated to stop, check in with yourself will ensure that you don’t experience complete burn out, and put you on the path to healing naturally.
Learning to handle stress, recognising and changing the behaviours that contribute to stress in healthy ways is important to restore body and mind.
Some techniques that can help are as follows:
Learn your triggers; this could be a series of late nights, work deadlines, particular people or restless children that won’t eat their dinner. Identifying your triggers allows you to anticipate and calm yourself before the event or circumstance arrives and practice mindfulness. If you can find ways of avoiding this trigger, i.e. make sure you get good restorative sleep, don’t leave the work to last minute.
Self -Care; Make an appointment with yourself- book a yoga class, massage, a walk on your lunch break or after work. Practicing relaxation will help your body and nervous system rest and restore. Try going for a walk (forest for the extra biophila effects) reading a book, a progressive muscle relaxation mediation (APP) , yoga or run a bath, light the candles and put on some music. Making time for yourself to enjoy the simple things will bring you a sense of well-being and pleasure. Be aware of the negative self- talk and guilt; re-frame this as you are doing something for you.
Only by filling your cup first, will you then be able to offer it to others.
Structure; The human brain loves routine, rhythm and helps to calm the stress of daily lives, establishing a routine can be very comforting and encouraging. Structure may include; Meal prepping on a Sunday afternoon, creating regular times for self-care- exercise and meditation or reading your favourite book at night before bed.
Connection; spending time with family and friends, those that lift you up and allow you to share thoughts and feelings is important. Rather than bottling up our feelings, if we can connect with people that understand us, we feel heard and can manage our stress with support. Catch up with your friends for a coffee, have a chat and often, hearing your own thoughts out loud brings the solutions.
Nutrition; this is critical to support your adrenals, nervous system, digestions and brain when under immense stress. Eating the wrong food can impact your mental and physical health further.
· Eat plenty of vegetables - rainbow
· Drink 2 L plus of water a day –herbal teas such as Chamomile, lemon balm and ginger
· B vitamins- complex range of Vitamins / support our nervous system, digestion, brain and energy functions. The following foods are great sources of B Vitamins; Dark leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, legumes, eggs and dairy, meat (red meat, chicken and fish), whole grains, some fruit.
· Eat regularly- Minimize blood sugar spikes
· Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
· Avoid sugar
· Reduce/ avoid Alcohol- nervous system depressant and disrupt sleep
· Avoid processed foods- they put strain on an already compromised digestion
The thoughts you fuel your mind with is as important as the food you fuel your body with. It takes a holistic approach to overcoming debilitating symptoms of stress. Make sure that you are eating healthy food, predominately whole foods, getting regular exercise and finding time to still the mind with a form of meditation that works for you.
This is a gentle reminder to myself this week too. The events of the past few weeks have been emotionally draining and bring with it some horrible memories that create the same stress response physiologically as being attacked by a saber tooth!
So whilst these are suggestions I often make to clients, as a practitioner, sometimes I need to remind myself to do as I say.
* If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic stress or depression, I advise to seek Psychological help. Sometimes talking to someone can assist you to understand and uncover any underlying issues.