A Graceful Approach to Stress
At times life can feel really overwhelming. I get it – I’ve been there … who are we kidding? I’m there pretty often. But sometimes the worst thing that we can do is stress about the stress. Getting caught up in our own thoughts comes so easily, but focusing on how stressed out we feel tends to do more harm than good. It drags down our whole energy and happiness.
When you allow yourself to take a step back and become aware of these feelings, you can begin shifting your relationship with them. Your outlook becomes lighter and happier.
Positive energy is contagious and by adopting a more objective way to manage the stress, we can become more present in our lives, more empathetic in our relationships and make the world a better place.
The effect of stress
The adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of the kidney and are responsible for adapting our body to stressful situations, by putting out the system’s major stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol.
Constant pressure on the adrenal glands will eventually wear them out and perpetuate hormonal imbalances, slow the metabolism and cause neurotransmitter imbalances. Over time, these imbalances take a physical toll – they will leave us tired, make us feel depressed and perpetuate sugar cravings.
Imagine that the body was a car and the adrenals the gas tank. You need to service the car regularly and make sure it has enough gas in the tank. If you’re going on a long road trip, you need to stop every so often to fill up the tank. The same goes for your body. If you’re always trying to power through and ‘drive through the night’ your metaphoric body–car may break down on the side of the road.
What’s my point? Slow down, fill up your gas tank, stop for breaks and just be kind to yourself.
If you catch yourself in a stressful spiral, the best thing that you can do is to pause and step away. It will feel really hard at first but this will help you to find clarity.
The more you practice this, the more intuitive it will become over time.
What does this look like? It doesn’t need to be anything complicated – it might just come in the form of permission. If you’re working on a particular project, maybe today you choose something else from your to do list to work on. If you’re dealing with a personal dilemma, take a walk, listen to some music or go to a yoga class.
Take breaks and provide your mind and body with love and kindness.
If you’re up for it, one of my favorite journaling exercises is one that helps you find your happy place.
Make a list of activities that would make you really happy that you can every day. Try to get really into this exercise and list anything that you can do from 15 minutes to an hour. The more relaxing, fun or silly the better, but try and get super specific.
It’s helpful to choose activities that take different amounts of time, because what I’m going to ask you to do next is choose something from your list to do every day.
When you catch yourself stressing, refer back to your inspirational list – and viola! You’re officially excuse-free. If you’re in need of some ideas, I am happy to share some of my activities:
- Taking a bath and listening to a calming album like “Dark was the Night”
- Lighting palo santo wood or sage and enjoying a 15 minute meditation
- Curling up with a soft blanket, cup of rose tea and reading a chapter from my novel
- Having a 15 minute Meghan Trainor dance party (embarrassing yes … but true)
- Taking a restorative yoga class
Probably the first thing to slip on a bad day or week is the quality of foods on our plate. Stress can increase cravings for sugar and salt. In fact, craving salt is one of the telltale signs of adrenal imbalance. But eating clean will help balance your blood sugar and give you the physical and emotional energy to handle any curve balls that may be thrown your way.
Exercise helps release endorphins that help to make us feel happier. They help combat rising stress levels and can help us to feel more balanced, light and free.
Rather than focusing on high intensity workouts that can exacerbate already tired adrenals, enjoy a low intensity type of workout such as time on the elliptical, a nice long walk outside or a yoga or pilates class.
Just like exercise helps combat stress, so does sleep. Sleep is the body’s time to rest and repair itself. Hormones such as serotonin and melatonin that are produced throughout the night counteract cortisol levels. Aim for at least 7 hours!
No matter how hard we try or where we live, we can’t always control the crazy world around us. But we can control the lens through which we look at the world and the way in which we choose to respond. Stressing about stressing or focusing on the negative will only perpetuate that experience. Regain composure by creating space and choose to respond rather than react.