I’ve never been one to handle stress particularly well. When I have too much on my plate, I know myself well enough to be conscious of eat carbs, become snippy, and teeter on the edge of anxiety when I have too much on my plate. Living in this modern world, we’re faced with many stressors on the daily – on top of work and home responsibilities, we have relationships to maintain, bodies to keep healthy, schedules to stay on top of.. and you have to feed and bathe yourself, too. (Those are just the basics!) We could all use a break once in a while – and contrary to what you may tell yourself, you need and deserve a break. In fact, studies show that pausing for an intermission allows you to be more productive.
I was recently inspired by an article on NY Times entitled Let 2017 Be the Year of Working Hard and Resting Hard. The title was enough to stick in my mind, simply because it spoke so strongly to my desire to finally find a place to just take a break, even though I feared I would look like the lazy one or that I couldn't keep up with the rest of the world.
Truth is, our culture moves faster than our bodies can keep up. There are so many benefits to allowing yourself to rest. Yes! I said allowing because when you take the responsibility for your daily actions, you get to choose to take that break. When you finally chillax, you're taking care of yourself + giving yourself a better chance at moving towards the YOU you wanna be.
Ten minutes here, an hour there – you’d do yourself a favor by taking a breather. Here’s how:
Meditate. Meditation is not something that’s new to me, but I feel its something to work on every day (just like yoga, its a practice). Its something I’m working on – and you should too. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and literally imagine each stressor falling or melting away. It may not feel that simple when you sit cross-legged in your living room and all you can think of is the insane grocery list you have to tackle later, but it’s a process – a calming one at that. Within a month, you can be on the path to being a meditation guru. In the meantime, though, don’t worry about the thoughts crowding your mind.. let them pass through your head and continue to focus on your breathing or an intention you might have set for your quiet time.
Still having trouble? Check out pro Gabby Bernstein’s video on how to meditate here. Also, there are a couple meditation apps I'll give a stellar two thumbs up: Breathe and Headspace. Check 'em out.
Get down with Earth. It's so simple, but just stepping outside to breath in some fresh air can be amazing for your overwhelmed body and mind. Better yet, by removing your shoes on a grassy area and walking around, you're connecting with the Earth's energy and recharging your batteries. This isn't some woo-woo magic! The Earth's bare ground is actually abundant with electrons - these electrons are needed to prevent inflammation (they're just what free radicals go after when entering our body). Subsequently, inflammation has been shown to be a cause of anxiety and depression, amongst a host of other conditions. Read more about the science of earthing here!
Nourish your body. It might seem like an obvious statement (and a Gathering Wellness mantra!), but eating good food has a more effect on your stress levels than you might think. For some (myself included!), stress induces an appetite for carbs, carbs, and only carbs. For a lot of us, carbs equal comfort, and oftentimes we reach for that pizza or bagel when we’re in our weakest state. These carbs are processed as sugar in our bodies and, while not all carbs are "bad" for us, too much of the wrong kind (think white flour + sugar, processed + fried, etc.) too often can lead to inflammation and possibly damage in the gut. And when your gut is not in tip-top shape, it won't release the feel good/happy hormone, serotonin, as it should. (Digging deeper into that is for a whole other post!)
Try to nip the vicious cycle in the bud by instead reaching for pre-cut veggies or even a healthier sweet that you prep for the busy week ahead. If you must have your carb fix, roast up some sweet potato fries, whip up a batch of these muffins, or try a hefty serving of fat instead (surprisingly, fat's thought to actually curb sweets cravings). Always, always remember to prep healthy foods for quick dishes and snacks when you know you have a busy week ahead or know it'll be one to test your willpower.
PS - While you're at it, give yourself the time to "rest + digest", meaning, when you have a snack or a full meal, take that 20 minutes to eat with intention - sit down (don't drive, walk, fold laundry, [insert every other action you do when eating]), breathe (YES, don't forget to breathe!) and focus on feeling gratitude for the food in front of you. Your digestive system will thank you, as it's not able to function as it should and can become inflamed when you're constantly eating in a stressed state, leading to bloating, constipation, and/or eventually leaky gut.
Treat yo'self to a workout. One thing my body craves when I’m feeling overwhelmed is a kick ass yoga class with an awesome balance of sweat + om. Getting that energy out of my system helps me to naturally relax, plus studies have shown that exercise actually has a positive effect on creativity. So, next time you're feeling lackluster at work, sneak away for a lunchtime run to get your wheels turning in high gear!
If you’re not already part of a gym or studio, take a note from #2 and go for a run on a nearby trail (shoes recommended ;) ) or find a workout online or through an app (my faves include Tone It Up and the Nike Training Club app). Many fitness studios will allow you to take a week of classes for free before committing - or just drop in for a class that fits in with your sched. They usually will only cost you about $15-$20, plus an hour of your time – a small fee for sweet relief.
Call your tribe. Even when I feel like I can barely fit another thing into my already-packed calendar, I know that hitting up happy hour, having a friend over for dinner or even just hopping on the phone for a phone date will make me feel better, allow me to vent about my stressors, and keep me totally focused on the moment. Another great idea – take a friend or family member to that yoga class or find a place to do something crafty like painting in a studio with a glass of wine. Spending time with someone you love, doing something fun, and finally relaxing from the day – win, win, win.
And of course.. don’t sweat the small stuff! Instead, practice gratitude for the opportunities and overall amazing-ness that surrounds you!