I believe our ability to manage stress is one of the biggest factors in determining life success. There’s no question that overwhelm and a stress-out mind reduce our ability to function at an optimal level and zap our joy. Recently, I briefly forgot most things I’ve learnt over the last 42 years and did a doozie on myself to help prove some of my theories!
You see, after travelling and studying for half of last year and enjoying a cruisy coaching lifestyle, I decided our family was in need of a cash injection so I took on an intense 3-month consulting contract in my field of Payments. Grateful for the work and keen to impress, I threw myself in, boots and all. “Full-time contract with days in city each week, sure I can handle that!”. Note that I live 3 hours away from the CBD, so a round trip to the office involves 6 hours of driving and a degree in Logistics Management to make sure my kids get to school, feed, clothed and rested!
For the first month, I did pretty well and made it to yoga twice a week, meditated regularly and walked whenever I could. Then the intensity got turned up; it was school holidays, so my yoga class was no go, the project tempo ramped up and I stopped my morning walk; Hubby took the kids to Bell’s Beach to watch the surf, while I bunked down in the city and worked my proverbial off.
Two weeks later and “Whammo” guess who’s on the phone to her acupuncturist friend on a Saturday afternoon, apologising profusely for talking work on a weekend and begging her to stick pins in me asap! Luckily, my friend, who’s known me for most of my life, recognised a woman in distress and was only too happy to oblige by tending to my seized up back and frozen shoulder.
Thank God for small mercies and old mates! But really, I should know better; I teach this stuff for goodness sake! So as a noble reminder to myself and for the benefit of anyone else who’s read this far, here are my key tips for stress relief that I will be dutifully employing for the remainder of my contact and for ever thereafter:
1) Do Away & Delegate – For me, this involves crossing things of my list that really don’t need to be there, and delegating school readiness and household tasks to my kids and husband. I know they’re more than capable and the extra responsibility builds reliance. I've even got a template for the purpose;
2) Get Back on the Mat – It sounds so cliché, but practicing yoga REALLY helps on both a physical and mental level. I’m aiming for two classes a week and some home practice, with an emphasis on the downward facing dog pose to help stretch my shoulders and breathing to release tension;
3) Don’t Take Life So Seriously – When my back seized, I realised that I’d forgotten to laugh for over a month. Last night, the fam and I watched the original 80’s version of Ghostbusters. It’s ridiculous, but funny and it was therapeutic to have a chuckle with the kids;
4) Remember the Beauty of B’s – Around the time my back went, my right eyelid started twitching; it was subtle and only I could tell, but it was yet another sign of how far down the rabbit hole I’d fallen in such a short amount of time. When this starts happening I know it’s time to up my B vitamins and mineral, so that’s exactly what I’ve done and hooray! no more twitchy-itchy for me, and as a side benefit, I feel soooo much better;
5) Bed By 10 – As the cooler months draw closer and the days get shorter, getting to bed at a reasonable time becomes even more important. I’m committing to hit the sack by 10pm from herein;
6) Talk it Over – Today, I really opened up and brain dumped all of the stresses of the past two months on my loving husband and we talked through the ins and outs of work challenges, people and personalities. It was one of the best coaching sessions I’ve ever had, and it was free! There’s something about talking to someone you trust that can help you see things with a fresher perspective and move on; that’s exactly what I did today, and felt so much lighter as a result;
7) Get Creative – Our creative work can be the first thing that gets shelved when we get really busy. From my experience, getting creative can really help to bring balance back into life. For me, writing a poem is like hitting a reset button. For you, it might be gardening, painting, sculpting or dancing. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it’s the focus on something other than work that’s important;
8) Walk it Out – There’s nothing like a vigorous walk to get the blood flowing and shift some stress. It’s even better if you can walk in nature, whether it’s in a park, around a green oval or in the bush. I’m fortunate to live beside a coastal park which has some great walking circuits and am committing to a daily walk, rain, hail or shine from now on;
9) Choose Comfort over Chaos – Up until my back seized, I hadn’t been thinking too much about my choice to wear heels each time I went to the office. Really, at this age, I should know better! Today, I bought myself some classy flats that can be worn with any type of suit. Ladies, it’s just not worth the sacrifice! Save the heels for the occasional outing and do your back a favour and don some flats for regular wear;
10) Mindset Matters – Lastly, but certainly not least, I’ve remembered to change my mindset and stop thinking of myself as “so stressed”, because, as I know all too well, that only exacerbates the issue. Instead, I’m choosing my thoughts very wisely and focusing on the contribution I’m making to the business I’m currently serving. I’m also committing to regular meditation, because I know the difference it makes to my perception and overall wellbeing.
So, there are my "reminders-to-self" and my promise to walk my talk. It’s ironic that sometimes we need to falter to remember what’s really important. I’ll be taking on my next round of coaching clients on in late May, so If you’re feeling overwhelmed and would like to talk about how you can make some changes, feel free to reach out and book a free 30 minute discovery session. I'd love to help!