How many times have you said you’re fine when you’re not?
I’m fine; or as Aerosmith perfectly described in their 1989 track F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional. Only we’re not in 1989, so let’s start taking responsibility for what’s going on inside so we can live bolder, more confident lives all round. Who’s with me?!
I can’t promise this will mean a stress free 2017, but here’s my handy guide to notice if you’re stressing too much and how to get back on track to being a happier and more confident you.
1. You’re a master of the scroll.
Studies have revealed correlations between low self-esteem, depression, body dysmorphia and social media use. I love social media, you name it I’ve scrolled it, but scrolling leads to increases anxiety and other negative emotions like jealousy.
If you want to stop feeding your self-comparison gremlin here’s what to do:
Step away from the phone. Put it in a box if you have to.
Logout of all your social feeds
Set an alarm for 2 hours (yes 2 hours!) and do not go back to the scroll until the alarm goes off.
Now make this a daily practice, ideally switching off your phone at least one hour before you go to bed.
2. You have difficulty getting off to sleep.
If you struggle with getting to sleep, you’re not alone. According to a sleep study conducted by Oxford University and the Royal Society for Public Health 40% of people aren’t getting enough sleep.
With 54% of the public saying they have felt stressed from poor sleep, so here’s how to increase your chances of a good nights kip.
Roll lavender oil on the base of your feet and place socks on before slipping into bed. Warm feet have been proven indicators for quick sleep onset and lavender has been used for years as a relaxing flower remedy.
Use the 4-7-8 breathing technique championed by Dr Andrew Weil and many others. Here's how to do it:
➢ Put your tongue behind your front teeth and keep it there for the whole exercise.
➢ Exhale fully through your mouth, it should be a gentle but full exhalation so you can hear the breath leaving your body
➢ Close your mouth and breathe in through the nose for a count of four
➢ Hold your breath for a count of seven
➢ Open your mouth and exhale for a count of eight.
➢ Repeat this for a total of four breaths.
3. Your mind feels like a washing machine, churning over the same thoughts.
We’ve all been there, the worry of something that occupies every moment like some horrid fun sponge. The work deadline, a girl or guy who hasn’t text back, marriage, break ups. Lets face it, life happens.
Why not try stopping the churning with stress-reduction program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon suggests:
Find a safe, quiet space. Somewhere you will be comfortable and not disturbed.
Observe the moment you are in, as it is. You do not have to clear your mind of thoughts, you become the observer. The goal is to pay attention, without judgement.
If judgement pops up, let it roll by and take your focus back to the present moment. The way you feel supported as you sit, tastes you have in your mouth, things you can see, how your breath feels as it enters and leaves your body.
Be kind to your mind, if it wanders, thank it for trying to help you, but bring it back to the present moment. Part of the practice is recognising when your mind wanders and actively bringing it back to focus.
Try doing this for 10 minutes a day.
4. Your eating patterns have changed.
Harvard Health Publication says that stress can shut down appetite in the short term, leading to weight loss. Stress causes the adrenal glands to release fight or flight hormones which temporarily shut down your need to eat. Coming to think of it that must be why I’ve never seen anyone fleeing a lion with a happy meal tucked under their arm.
Prolonged stress has the opposite effect on your system with the release of cortisol, which amongst other functions, increases appetite. If you stay in a continued state of stress your cortisol levels don’t drop, leaving you reaching for the Krispy Kremes.
Seeing as a total of 11.7 million working days were lost to stress in 2015/16 I would say many people’s stress levels are not going anywhere.
Here's how to combat stress eating:
Eat only when you’re hungry.
Avoid the office sweet treats by keeping healthy low fat, low sugar snacks to hand. I know it’s hard but those sugar spikes and afternoon lows are just no good.
Avoid intense exercise as this can increase cortisol levels.
Take classes in Tai Chi or Yin Yoga to get your exercise endorphin hit, whilst lowering cortisol and stress levels.
Keeping track of sleeping, eating and thought patterns should help you de-stress and leave you feeling bold, confident and awesome. Now get out there and slay the rest of 2017!
A version of this was posted on the Inspire by Psycle blog which you can also see here