How many times have you said you’re fine when you’re not?
You know how it goes, you bump into someone in the street:
"How are you?!" they exclaim.
"Oh me? I'm fine." You answer, knowing full well, that your health isn't what it used to be, work has been 'a bit full-on', your love life resembles the plant in the hallway which has brown leaves and could do with a bit of extra care and you have no clean pants for tomorrow.
Fine - F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional.
I’m fine. I am fine, you tell yourself quietly in your head. I'm sure everyone has the same issues as I do. It's normal to be like this, everyone struggles with adulting you self soothe. In their 1989 track, Aerosmith perfectly described fine - F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional. Only we’re not in 1989, so let’s start talking about our mental health and 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 2020, 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.
How to notice if you're stressing too much?
You find tasks which you used to be able to do with ease, difficult and often feel you can not cope.
You're overly emotional and find yourself crying at adverts or in situations which wouldn't usually elicit such a response.
You find it hard to connect to things which bring you joy and satisfaction.
You struggle with getting to or staying asleep.
You lean on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, drinking, gambling, sex, recreational drugs, food or shopping to help self soothe or ignore your problems.
You tell everyone you're fine but feel like things are coming unstuck behind closed doors.
You don't feel like yourself.
What to do about it?
1. Phone addict?
Studies have revealed correlations between low self-esteem, depression, body dysmorphia and social media use. We love social media, you name it we’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:
STOP SCROLLING!! Step away from the phone. Put it in a box if you have to. Try logging out of all your social feeds so you have to log back in when you want to use them. This creates a conscious step before you head back to the scroll.
Download and use apps which help you to control your phone usage such as Flipd, Quality time, App Detox or Moment.
Switching off your phone and any tech at least one hour before you go to bed.
2. Sleep issues?
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.
Turn off all tech so you have no blue light interference at least 1 hour before you want to sleep.
Create a nighttime routine. For example, 1 hour before bed you have a short soak in the bath, get ready for bed, write out any bothersome thoughts into a journal, do a slow and steady breathing technique in bed.
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 4-6-8 breathing technique championed by Dr Andrew Weil and many others.
3. Churning 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, health scares, kids. Lets face it, life happens and we can not control what happens, only how we respond to it.
Why not try stopping the churning with a stress-reduction program such as MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
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.
You could also download my free 3 steps to anxiety-free workbook here
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:
Get a 1 ltr water bottle and set a timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to drink. Make sure you drink 3-4 water bottles a day. Water will help you to feel full and when you are hydrated you're less likely to want to snack or eat when you're actually thirsty not hungry.
Eat only when you’re hungry and stop when full. Check-in with yourself before reaching for snacks and high sugar treats.
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 which will already be high is you are stressed.
Take classes in Tai Chi or Yin Yoga to get your exercise endorphin hit, whilst lowering cortisol and stress levels.
If you struggle to eat when stressed set an alarm to remind you to eat three meals a day. make sure you have simple, healthy meals or snacks available so you can nibble if full meals are too much.
If eating makes you feel nauseous when stressed try drinking ginger or peppermint tea to settle your stomach.
Keeping track of sleeping, eating and thought patterns should help you de-stress and leave you feeling bold, confident and awesome. If you have your own tips on this why not pop over to Clear Community our free facebook community and share your tips.
Now get out there and slay 2020!