Every single day, every person who walks into my clinic has one thing in common.
Before I talk about how to work on stress management I must define what I mean when I say stress.
When I talk to clients in my clinic there are some people who show unmistakable signs of stress but they say “I don’t feel stressed”.
Stress is everyday life.
Stress is not taking time to slow down, unwind and breathe life in.
I think stress is one of those terms that are misinterpreted. We almost need a new word to define what stress actually is.
It’s easier to explain stress when I ask people
“Tell me what you do to relax?”
Often met with a blank expression as they say “uuummm watch TV?”
This is when they realise that they don’t actually do anything to send their body the message ‘hey body, everything is OK. We have time to stop and relax and enjoy life’.
I’m not joking. We actually need to give our bodies this message.
How can you take your body off high alert if you’re never flicking the off switch? Watching TV is mind numbing (and sometimes stressful depending on what you watch), not stress relieving.
What can you do to manage your stress levels?
1. Self nourishment
Do something to nourish your soul. Take a bath (preferably with low lighting, candles, no interruptions and some yummy smelling salts or bubble bath to enhance the experience), do some yoga (you can attend a class or do it at home with a DVD or by finding a video or app on your computer or ipad. I use Yoga Studio), listen to relaxing music, go for a massage, pick up a hobby, meditate or go and sit in a park or by the beach and chill out.
2. Breathe deeply (into your stomach).
So many people are programmed to breathe shallow only using the top of their lungs.
Check in with your body right now.
What happens when you take a breath in?
Do your shoulders lift up?
Does your stomach move inwards or out?
If your shoulders are going up and your belly moving in, we need to talk!
This is shallow breathing.
Now put your hand on your belly and when you breathe in, think about the air filling your belly. You should find that your belly now moves out and your shoulders don’t really seem to move.
This is what we want.
Set a reminder in your phone or stick a post-it note on your computer screen and remind yourself to check in with your breathing a few times every day. Spend a couple of minutes focusing on nice deep belly breaths.
3. Spend some time before bed unwinding.
I think a lot of people only sleep because they know they have to and they don’t realise that sleep is the time that your body does its repair and restoration. We don’t want to go into the land of slumber feeling wound up or feeling like a zombie.
Power down your TV, computer, ipad etc and spend some time doing your deep breathing, meditation, affirmations or just lovingly brushing your hair or filing your nails.
The main part of this tip is mindfulness. Being mindful about winding down and preparing for a restful sleep.
4. Go on holiday or get away for a weekend.
Get out of your everyday life, get away from work, get away from needy friends, get away from nagging parents, get away from housework and the mundane chores of the everyday. There is a reason your employer has to give you annual leave. Because it’s super important to your mental and physical health! What better way to give your body the signal to relax and switch off high alert than lying in a hammock on a tropical island in Fiji.
Just do it.
5. Invest in some yummy herbal teas, a teapot and a nice teacup.
Herbal teas are a traditional way of taking herbal medicine. There are some lovely herbal teas around that contain herbs traditionally used for stress relief. Look for blends that include lavender, passionflower, withania, lemon balm, or chamomile. We have a few blends for this - TeaStress, Adrenalade and Rest & Digest.
But this is not just about the herbs in your tea. This is more about ritual and slowing down. Taking the time to boil the kettle, dispense your loose leaf tea, brew the tea and pour out cup after cup is another way to be mindful and send the “we’re not stressed” signal to your body.
6. Go and see a qualified naturopath or herbalist.
We have the best herbs to help tonify and restore the adrenals and nervous system. There are so many of these herbs that it would be impossible to pick the right ones by yourself. An expert (read: trained practitioner) will be able to choose the most suitable herbs and nutrients for your current state of health.
A trained naturopath or herbalist will also know if it will be best to use the herbs in liquid, capsule, tablet or powder form. Sometimes in stressed patients, their digestive system has stopped functioning properly so i find liquid herbs to be the most efficient method of dosing until their gut function improves.
Stress less for better health
So you can see from the above 6 tips that stress is really a lack of slowing down and a lack of mindfulness. By taking thoughtful steps to be kind to ourselves we can greatly improve many aspects of our health.
Got a stress management tip to share? Please leave your tip in the comments box below.