Saturday, January 22, 2011
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?