It doesn’t seem to matter if we have two things to do or 200, we can be in a pressing rush to do it all; yet for many of us, it rarely feels like we are in control or on top of any of it. In fact, our desire to control even the smallest details of life can be part of the challenge.
You only have to look around to notice that many people are struggling with achieving a sense of calm in their lives. Many people feel overwhelmed, stressed and rushed to the point that their physical and emotional health is affected. The reasons for this are numerous — the pace of modern life, the responsibilities of full-time work and raising a family, looking after grandchildren, or running a demanding business, to name a few, but sometimes we bring it on ourselves.
The rush starts and finishes with ourselves. After all, we are busy with what we say yes to. Many women have a tendency to want to be all things to all people, and we can find it difficult to say no. But what this rush is communicating to our bodies is changing the face of women’s health as we know it - from worsening premenstrual syndrome to irritable bowel syndrome, from losing our tempers with loved ones or colleagues to feeling like we just can’t cope with day-to-day demands, let alone achieve our goals.
In the rush of it all, how can you slow down? Small steps can result in large payoffs when it comes to your sense of calm, your happiness and your sense of wellbeing.
Here are some tips to get you started on how you can condition your calm:
Address Your Caffeine Consumption
In a world with a significant coffee culture, it is no wonder many people have become somewhat addicted to their daily caffeine fix. However, what is often not considered is the impact that excessive amounts of caffeine can have on our already stressed/amped-up nervous systems. Caffeine drives the production of adrenalin, one of our stress hormones, which is also why it makes many of us initially feel alert and energized. The flip-side is that often it can lead to anxious feelings and further perpetuate the biochemical effects of the stress we are already encountering. Green tea is a wonderfully uplifting beverage to consume in place of coffee or to help you reduce your caffeine consumption. It contains an amino acid called l-theanine which boosts energy levels but also helps to keep us calm. Packed full of antioxidants, green tea is a health- promoting alternative to coffee, with much less caffeine.
Take A Nap
It’s as if too many people have become too “proud” to take naps . “They are for the weak”, or “How could I possibly have time to sleep during the day?” may be some sentiments you hear expressed. In fact, naps are absolutely invigorating and need to be encouraged. Instead of reaching for another coffee or tea, recharge your batteries properly. Taking a 15-minute nap is a great way to reset your nervous system and wake up feeling energized. While this may not be practical at work, it’s a wonderful thing to do on the weekend. Research into populations who live well and live long has shown that the one thing they all have in common is that they regularly nap!
Create A Tech-Free Zone In Your Home For 1 Day Per Week
It is hard to imagine a world without the sounds of cellphones and emails — but it is possible. Take a break from technology once a week (preferably on the weekend), and feel your nervous system start to calm: it can happen almost immediately. Allow yourself the time to just be and become stricter with yourself around the use of your phone, laptop or tablet in the evening.
Re-Evaluate Your To-Do List And Schedule Tasks, Instead
How many of the items that you have listed on your to-do list need to be done by you? How many can be done by a colleague, a family member or a friend? How many of them need to be done at all? How many of them need to be done now? One of the ways we can create more calm in our lives on a daily basis is to re-evaluate our workload, prioritize and schedule.
Learn How To Say No (Gently)
If this feels really uncomfortable for you, make a list of what energizes you and what drains you. If the “drains me” list is longer, start by cutting back on one of those activities or obligations. If that’s not possible, then whenever possible seek help, from a friend, a loved one or a colleague. You show strength, courage and honesty when you can ask for help.
Put Your Legs Up The Wall
A great way to help you breathe diaphragmatically is to lie on your back with your legs up the wall. Lie in this position for 5 –10 minutes and focus on your breath. Place a folded towel under your back or bottom for support if you like. Take 10 minutes to fully relax into this pose; it’s especially delicious with some soothing music. Diaphragmatic breathing helps to activate the part of the nervous system responsible for eliciting calm feelings.
Creating Calm Through Movement
When you feel like you have a one-way ticket on the stress express, it’s not uncommon to be drawn to high-intensity exercise in an effort to “sweat it out”. While that most definitely works for some people, it might not work for you. Plus, in the long term, high-intensity exercise can drive processes inside of us that drive oxidation and inflammation; essentially, the way we age from the inside out. When you have been in a constant state of stress, you tend to neglect or even avoid calming activities.
Consider enrolling in a meditation course and committing to do so with a friend, or go to a restorative yoga class. Incorporate a breath- focused practice in your life, whether that is meditation, yoga, t’ai chi, pilates or even just 10–15 minutes every day where you focus on slow belly-breathing.
This is one of the best ways to switch off your stress response. This isn’t being indulgent; it’s incredibly necessary for your health.
Listen To Your Body
If you feel like cancelling plans, snuggling up on the couch and reading a book, do it — and enjoy it! Far too often we ignore our own intuition about what we need in each moment; instead, we feel obligated to carry through on our original plans. Make a conscious effort to tune into and act on this. You will feel so much better for it.
Head over to FMTV to watch Hala Khouri’s Yoga For Stress Reduction. You will also learn how to release stressful energy from your body and handle life's stressors with grace and ease.