Chances are, if you’re an adult, you most likely experience a certain level of stress on a daily basis. While certain stresses are more overwhelming than others (i.e. trying to find a parking spot in LA which is nearly impossible, vs. losing your job), it all has a far greater negative effect on your physical and mental health, than you might realize. Stress is how our body responds to certain environmental stimuli, and it’s completely normal for all of us to experience bouts of it from time to time. It actually developed as a way for early humans to be inspired to take an immediate action (such as to run away from a predator), but today it’s often an unnecessary emotion that harms us – rather than helps us.
The cause of your stress can be an endless stream of things that aren’t necessarily easy to overcome, such as being overwhelmed at work, school, or by personal/relationship problems. I have always been a worrier. I’ll wake in the night worrying about the silliest of things, and I’ve had times in my life when stress has seemed overwhelming. And now being a new mother as well there’s even more to juggle – as exciting and rewarding as it is, like most new mums I’m still learning on the job too! I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights, my appetite fluctuates, and my ability to concentrate has also been affected. Par for the course!
I know stress is almost unavoidable in today’s culture, but with my fair share of experiences, I’ve managed to condense some of my tips on how to manage and decrease your stress levels. It sounds easier said than done, but believe me, if you give yourself a chance to breathe and take it one step at a time, it can be over before you know it. Below are some tips on how to manage stress and gain some relief – and yes, some acts of self-indulgence and spoiling yourself are included.
Make Positive Thinking A Habit
The ability to see the glass half full in every scenario is always a good thing to keep in mind. If you can always see the silver lining or the light at the end of the tunnel, you can prevail through almost any situation. Mackenzie is bloody good at this – he will make me laugh in the most annoying of situations and make me lighten up! ‘Thinking positively’ is a big trend these days, with Instagram inspirational quotes abound. But surprisingly, it can actually be much harder than you think when life throws you lemons, so it’s a habit that needs to be practiced like anything else. When you catch yourself having negative thoughts and feelings, make a conscious effort to replace them with something positive, even if you don’t believe it in the moment. Fake it till you make it, as they say. List 5 things that you’re grateful for in this moment. You’ll be surprised how grounding this is in moments of stress.
Move & Nourish Your Body
Eating healthy and exercising at least a few times a week is always a good way to give your body some physical and mental relief. Physical activity gives you a rush of endorphins, which are natural pain killers, and even aid with sleep – which in turn helps you feel less stressed. It’s a wonderful cycle! If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, hit the gym, go for a run or walk, or sign up for your favorite class or even just take 5 minutes at home to deep breathe and stretch (that’s what I’m reminding myself to do each day at home with baby Honor, as I’m not able to exercise yet). After your workout you’ll most likely feel ten times better, as science actually proves that exercise improves mood. Follow a balanced diet with lots of nutrients and avoid junk and processed foods at all costs (a good rule of thumb? if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back of the packet, it’s probably not worth eating), especially those high in saturated fats and refined sugars as they tend to increase tension. Our brains need a healthy balance of essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 in order to operate properly, and eating loads of junk food can cause chemical changes in your brain that may lead to depression or anxiety.
Take Yourself On A Date
Take a little time off for yourself – this is a big one that mums especially can find pretty difficult to do. It’s easy to put others’ needs before your own, but when you take time to pamper yourself every now and then, everyone in your life benefits. I love treating myself to a nice facial or massage, a blowout, a glass of red wine, or even just a stroll through one of my favorite stores. And I love to buy myself flowers! Pampering yourself can give you a big confidence boost when you’re feeling low, and can certainly be a great distraction from stress. If you’re a mum and you absolutely can’t have a partner or babysitter help out, light some candles and sit in the bath when everyone has gone to bed. Even if you’re interrupted by your kiddos, a few minutes of relaxation are better than none!
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
In today’s lightning-fast culture, people take sleep for granted. Our bodies generally need at least 6-8 hours of sleep to fully recover and prepare for another day. If we’re not fulfilling our need to sleep because of stress, it can actually lead to sleep deprivation, which can put you at risk for health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or diabetes. A lot of people tend to lose sleep because they have a million things on their to-do lists and feel stressed about not being able to get it all done. My tip? Set an alarm not only for when you should wake up, but also for when it’s time to go to bed. Anything that you haven’t gotten done by then (unless it’s an emergency) must then wait until the next day. It’s easy to get caught up in our tasks or sucked into a Netflix show as a means to wind down, and then all of a sudden it’s 1am. Make this a strict rule and stick to it!
Get Friendly With Saying No
Don’t be afraid to say “no” before you take on way too many commitments. It can be easy to spread ourselves thin, especially when we have many important obligations in life, such as family, friends, work, school and so on. Always know what to prioritize – what must absolutely get done today, and what can wait? Women are superheroes, but being able to do it all doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. Being able to say “no” doesn’t make you a bad person, it just indicates that you value your precious time. It may make some people in your life uncomfortable at first if they aren’t used to hearing you say it, but hey – if they really care about you, they’ll get over it!
I feel so grateful to have such a wonderful support system in my life. Mackenzie is an amazing partner to me when I feel overwhelmed, and I am so lucky to have had my parents here helping us through the first few weeks of Honor’s life. I have got quite good at giving everyone tasks – and it really helps keep me calm knowing that dinner is being made or the washing is on! It’s a huge weight off your shoulders when you have loving people in your life to help you carry the load. Reach out, ask for help, get real with those around you if you’re in a time of need. If you don’t have anyone close to you that you feel you can count on, seek help from a professional. Discussing your problems without the judgment of others is always very cathartic, and sometimes putting it all out there and having someone listen is just what you need, and they can often provide practical, helpful solutions.
Plan It All Out
I don’t know about you, but I always have a million things whirring through my mind at any given moment. My to-do’s, my goals for myself and my family, fears, and the like. I find it extremely helpful to map out everything I’m feeling and everything I want to accomplish. Buy a planner or a white board to pencil in every single important detail of your life. It can really put your schedule in perspective and lets you know what days you will be overbooked and what days you can commit to other tasks. It also helps to put them in your smartphone calendars to give you more reminders – that way, you won’t be late too! Trust me, these babies take you a long way.