Saturday, January 22, 2011

Low-Stress Secrets

I read a great article in the December 2010 Australian Women’s Weekly. ‘Real-life secrets of low-stress women had the following tips, which I really found helpful. The bolded titles are from the article, and I have mostly paraphrased the information as well as adding my own thoughts.

Think friendly. Listen to your thoughts. Are they often negative? Do you speak to yourself in a way you wouldn’t speak to a friend? I think negative thinking can be a habit we fall into, so when I catch myself I find it useful to think the positive opposite and I instantly start going in the right direction again.

Worry daily. Rather than spend all day (and night) worrying, write the worries down, and make a note of any action that could be taken. I find I do a less chic version of this. I stew and stew and let things get on top of me. Then I have a mini-breakdown and burden my husband with my woes. He makes sensible suggestions on how I can fit everything into my schedule (and never says unhelpful comments such as ‘don’t read blogs at work’), we make a plan and I’m happy again. Perhaps I could follow this advice, write my worries down and save him the stress.

Be grateful. Whatever you put your attention on expands and grows in your life. I’ve done the gratitude journal thing on and off for years since I first heard of it. I felt like a bit of a winner writing it down and thought imagine if someone read my lame writings, but I often say thank you to the Universe for lovely things or good luck. I also often think how lucky I am to have all that I do.

Eat chocolate. Dark chocolate is good for you. I know this because I can have it in the house without eating the entire block at once. That always means things are good for you. Popcorn, icecream, jubes and milk chocolate are not good for me. I can only eat 1-2 squares of dark chocolate a day, which I cannot say for popcorn, icecream, jubes and milk chocolate. Therefore dark chocolate lives at my place while those others do not.

Take up yoga. I’ve already done this! I joined a class in the middle of last year. I started off going once a week and a few months in I upped it to twice a week. I had a break over Christmas of almost a month because the teacher was on holiday and I really missed it. I started back this week and I feel so good both during and after the class. I’m excited about an exercise that I enjoy and can see myself doing for the rest of my life. The magazine article said along with the facts that we know, like yoga increasing flexibility and toning muscles whilst calming the mind, is that yoga increases GABA, a brain substance which is often low in those who suffer from stress and anxiety.

Be honest. For most people lying is stressful, which is why lie detectors generally work. I heard a really cool quote recently that said ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant’ which I took to mean be honest, don’t hide anything, and you’ll feel better, healthier, happier. If you’re worrying about what to say, just tell the truth.

Fall in love. The article stated that being married or in a long-term relationship alters hormones in a way that eases stress. I’m not sure that this belongs in my ideal list of low-stress secrets. Of course being in the right relationship is going to make you happier. But if you’re with someone that isn’t right, that can be worse than being single. And if you’re single, you might feel you’re missing out on a low-stress secret, when it’s simply out of your control for now. You can work on yourself and be open and approachable, but it’s not up to you when you meet your most excellent match. The Universe decides that. Let’s kick this tip out of the list, it’s too stressful. Let’s go with things we can control.

Say hello to nature. This I agree with a lot. Years ago I replaced the gym with walking. I loved being outside amongst nature (even in town there are trees and gardens) more than I loved standing on carpet within walls, close to other people with loud bass music. Also, since adopting Atlas the elderly poodle, either my husband or I take five minutes every couple of hours to take a brief stroll along the grass verge. Little doses of vitamin D throughout the day! We also go for short-ish walks most days (about twenty minutes) to stretch his legs. Yesterday morning we had half an hour before we had to open the shop. Sometimes we go to a nearby cafe for a coffee (a real treat we do maybe once a week) but yesterday we walked through a nearby park. It was a lovely way to start the day.

Ask for help. Women have a tendency to try and shoulder the entire load and many of us are reluctant to ask for help. The article suggests we pick an area of our life where we could use the most help, ask the person or people we would like a helping hand from, and leave them to it. Mistakes will be made but that’s part of handing over. Whenever I get the offer of help from my man and I’m tempted to say ‘no that’s ok I’ll do it’ I try and remember to say ‘thank you’ instead.

Eat foods rich in magnesium. I was told years ago that magnesium relaxes your muscles and helps you feel less tense. Naturally I went out and bought a magnesium supplement, which is fine, but you can also eat foods such as pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, almonds and cashews as well as green vegetables. Another way to get it is take a bath with a handful of Epsom salts dissolved in it. Adding a few drops of lavender oil is recommended too. I’m not a fan of baths, but I do love nuts. I’ll just have to remind myself to have them raw. Roasted and salted doesn’t do their nutrition content any favours.

I would add to this list:

Be organised. Working on being more organised in my daily life and dealing with annoyances of my own making (such as leaving mending undone or ignoring a clutter hotspot) has made me feel infinitely happy, calm, serene and in control. Instead of walking past something twenty times before putting it away, I try and do it immediately. I’m also working on decluttering, creating good daily routines and home organisation. If I can find a place for everything and remember to put everything in its place, I will be one happy person.

Go to bed earlier. Only good things can come from this. I’m out of the habit of early nights at the moment and the times when I force myself to shut down the computer and wind down with a book before turning the light off nice and early I feel amazing the next day. My goal is for early nights to be the norm rather than the exception.

Breathe. Do you forget to breathe? I do. I find myself not exactly holding my breath, but I'm holding onto something. To lower stress, let your breath flow in... and out. And when you breathe, your stomach should expand not your chest. I think as females we are so used to holding our stomach in that we train ourselves to breathe in a counter-productive way.

Live within your means. 'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery'. - Charles Dickens. I know first-hand how horrible it feels to spend more than you have and then dread the credit card statement. It is such a good feeling to know you have money in the bank to cover your bills, plus an emergency fund of X months of living expenses.


What is your favourite low-stress lifestyle secret?


  1. Love your points especially worry. I read somewhere "worry is the interest you pay on a debt that may NOT be yours!" This has stayed with me.Also Be Grateful-I now write in a gratitude journal every night and have down for about 4 years. It's incredible how it changes your energy and helps eradicate the negative thinking. I LOVE all the recommendations-thank you.

  2. I'm going to print this post and put it somewhere where I can see it every day, to remind me of what's important! I already do some of the things listed, if not every day, so at least I'm off to a good start. My best de-stressing tip would be to stop whatever I'm doing for a few minutes, close my eyes, take a deep breath and tell my self to slow down. It actually works:) Have a wonderful day!

  3. Oh, Fiona! You've covered the secrets VERY well. I think I practice almost all of them in some way, shape or form except for Yoga - and that's been on my mind for a LONG time. I believe it's time to DO it.

    Lately, "DO it" has been my challenge in a quite a few areas. "Knowing" and "planning" don't substitute for "doing".

  4. I love the "worry daily" suggestion. I carry a lot of anxiety throughout the day--and often need my boyfriend's help to get through it. This solution is far more elegant. And I can vouch for the beauty of a no-debt life; I don't have credit cards, and I'm so very glad for this. It's marvelous.

  5. I agree, I'm going to print this too and put it in my binder. The most helpful one for me is gratitude. I fall asleep every night thankful that I have basic things like clean sheets, a pillow to lay my head on, a roof over my head, heat, etc and I always drift off to sleep perfectly content and happy.

  6. This is smart advice. Especially about the money, that is the trap I tend to fall in, when you live without much for so long and then you have money its hard not to want to spend it all. I am working hard at saving and controlling spending. I love that Dickens quote I hadn't heard that one before :).

  7. Nicely done, Fiona. You are such a wonderful writer. I think I would add to this list: "put on some lip gloss and mascara"--only because when I am stressed out I tend not to care what I look like (to a degree). I will wear loungewear, not do my hair or put on make-up, to have a de-stress day at home. But then everytime I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, "EEEK GADS!!" Looking good on the outside can help to feel better on the inside--and vice versa.

  8. hello dearest fiona,

    i LOVE this list. i esp love the honesty tip. i find that being honest with everyone and esp myself is the greatest thing in the world. when i'm honest everything is so easy. it helps me to live in the moment. thanks for this list!


  9. Fiona,

    Thank you for taking the time to note these invaluable tips.

    I have let my Yoga practice slip a bit and need to make more time for it...thanks for the reminder :)

  10. Vanessa, you have changed my mind about writing in a gratitude journal. I plan to start it again today. Love your worry quote too.

    Nanne, I like your tip. Sometimes I talk to myself - 'Come on Fiona, calm down, lets go through this methodically'. Since I'm in the habit of talking to myself I will enjoy using it!

    Rebecca, yes, DO it. I plan and plot also, and prepare. Anything but do. This year that has changed. I DO things as I think of them.

    AA, I am writing my worry list down too, and then listing solutions.

    Stephanie, gratitude puts all my moans into perspective.

    Jennifer, I read The Richest Man in Babylon and it changed the way I think about money. It made me prefer saving to spending. Of course I still buy things now, but shopping is no longer a leisure pursuit. Read the whole book, even if it seems dumb. Don't skim!

    Bliss, so true. That is definitely one to add to the list. When I'm going to work, or out, I do my hair and makeup and wear flattering and appropriate clothes. But I have to remind myself to do this at home. And it's just as easy to do it at the beginning of the day than the end. A simple hairstyle, most often a high ponytail at home, lightly made up complexion (with tinted moisturiser rather than foundation etc) and comfortable but nice looking clothing, with a spritz of perfume and earrings I feel chic all day and I'm sure it affects what I do - motivated (or don't do - like eat crap). And I look nice when my husband gets home.

    Janet, honesty to ourselves. Can't believe I didn't think of that. It's just as important.

    Hostess, you're welcome. Now get to yoga!

  11. Fiona,

    What a great article. I'm surprised they didn't mention the stress relievers that you added. Being disorganized is a huge source of stress for me.

    Worry is also a stress creator and also a giant waste of time.

    The older I get, the more grateful I become. The feeling of gratefulness and contentment is a lovely state to achieve.

    Wonderful post....merci!

  12. My's like you can read my mind. I've been so stressed this week...but I have found that yoga, or even doing a couple poses before bed helps.

    For me, journaling works...and sometimes I just close my eyes and breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes (sort of an informal meditation). It drives me crazy when my mind goes in circles when I'm trying to focus! Writing down what is bothering me and sort of deciding to let it go certainly helps me. That...and dark chocolate! ;)

    Thanks for sharing these tips...I definitely could improve on a few of those...especially going to bed early.

  13. I, too, sometimes need a break down before I can feel de-stressed. I should try the writing worries down thing!
    I think I would substitute yoga for ballet since I've wanted to do that for a while now but thanks for this post!

    It came just in time... I could really use the de-stressing right about now!
    Personally I favor milk chocolate but I should be more like you... instead I allow all junk foods to live in my house. ha.


  14. I think it is incredibly important to avoid certain kinds of stress, and I agree that chocolate is very good for you, if it is a good quality type.

  15. This post has been printed and displayed on my fridge, my desk, in my planner, and on my mirror. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  16. I love this list and practice quite a bit of it daily. I do need to work on the yoga a bit more and walking outside more, as that is what I love to do!!

    I have always been a worrier but the older I get, the less I have been worrying - but I think I will practice your technique...

    Have a beautiful week, Fiona!! xxoo :)

  17. Great reminders, Fiona. For me, being organized is how I premptively counter stress. I also think you need to prioritze things or activities and be willing to only do 90% of something well and letting the rest go.
    Also - know what you need nutritionally and eat only those foods that are good for your body and taste good. I have to keep chips, popcorn, and candy out of the house because I, too, will just mow through an entire container. But I allow myself to eat as many nuts and dried kale as I want. And like your experience with dark chocolate, it doesn't take much to satisfy me!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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