Stop Saying Yes when you mean No and other handy stress hacks

Stop saying Yes when you mean No

You know that moment when you are asked to do something or come to something and you agree to it all the while knowing you are going to spend the next week stressed out trying to work out what excuse will work to get you out of it. Start practicing to say no when you actually do mean no and it is amazing how much stress falls away. A simple, ‘thank you but No I cant’ is polite, honest and much much easier in the long run. The person asking has usually moved on the the next person they want to ask and they aren’t left disappointed in the end when you finally think up the excuse you think will work.

When It is a work request, it can be trickier but If I simply don’t have the bandwidth, I say ‘Based on my current workload, I can’t take that on today but I can do it for you on this day by this time… Does that work? …. If it is your boss and its urgent, agree what comes off the current to do list so that you can make it ‘yes’ and mean it!

Having Predictable Downtime & Setting Boundaries

If we are to avoid burnout or chronic tiredness due to our every busy lifestyles it is essential that we find ways to properly rest our body and mind. Affording ourselves predictable downtime through setting reasonable boundaries is a useful way to start some better habits to sleeping better, better energy levels and enhanced feelings of health and well being.

One of the worst things for keeping our brains active, pumping out cortisol and preventing us from starting to relax is our smartphones. These are responsible for extending our working day way beyond what is a reasonable expectation for contribution to your job. If you want to remain productive and more importantly healthy, happy and well then have a time in the evening after which you don't check your email or use your phone.

Signal rest for the body with a nightly wind down ritual such as a cup of tea or a bath. This should also be the signal to the rest of the family that you are now 'off duty' '

If it is an intensely busy period at work rather than cut out your time for exercise altogether, make the workouts shorter or get a quick class done at lunchtime or early in the morning before the day gets really hectic.

If you have a period of time where lots of extra weekend work is required, decide when it is going to get done, do it then draw a line under it and put it out of your mind. Don't allow it to impinge on the other part of the weekend or you might as well not have stopped working. Easier said than done sometimes so the best thing is to get outside, get some time with friends or family, attend to your hobby. This 'down time' will mean you get to work more refreshed more relaxed and in a better state to make decisions and be more productive.

Plan a reasonable bed time and stick to it rather than sitting in front of the TV. Better leadership, productivity, decision making and levels of personal happiness are all outcomes of a regular good nights sleep.

5 Minute Breathing Hack for Stress Management

Our internal chatter is a huge contributor to stress and most of us aren't aware of this going on in our heads. Constantly replaying memories, annoyances and past mistakes or worrying and projecting how things will turn out is exhausting and turns out also activates our stress response.

A moment of mindfulness will really good for taking you out of your head. It helps to reset the body to a better state of ease. Try this quick technique to activate the Parasympatheic Nervous System (also know as Rest and Digest!) and return to calm.

Do a quick body scan and see what is tight – usually the neck, shoulders and jaw.
Relax them, peel your shoulders away from your ears and pull them back if you have been hunched over the laptop
Slow everything down by taking a few slow, controlled, deep belly breaths to help you calm yourself and give yourself some space before you begin.

Breath deeply into your belly on a slow count of 5, hold for as close to the count of 5 as you can, then breath out slowly for a count of 5.

Repeat this a few times to help bring a state of calm and centered energy to you.

If you are in an interaction with someone that is heightening your feelings of stress, just 'pause before action' and examine your thoughts and decide how best to respond. Ask yourself: am I jumping to conclusions here, am I reacting rather than responding, what is the perspective of the other person in this interaction and what will serve me best when I respond?

This is a great quick hack to break the cycle of automatic behavior and improves decision making to being based on a place of calm and coherent thought.

The Benefits of a Sauna or a Steam

Steam Rooms and Saunas


I am a big Steam and Sauna room user and for me they are not just a way to relax or chill out. I find them hugely beneficial in terms of post workout recovery as well as helpful if I am recovering from a winter cold. I’m still working on finding room in the garden to build one!


Here are just a few ways in which Steam or Sauna Rooms are helpful:-

1) Recovery and Tension

The heat relaxes muscles, soothes nerve and joint pain as well as relieves headaches.

2) Removes Toxins and helps clear skin

The heat makes your body sweat which helps relieves the body of waste products as well as improving circulation helping skin look better.

3) Can Increase Flexibility

I find that combined with regular work to stretching muscles, a sauna or steam room means that the heat penetrating muscles helps improve their flexibility.  

4) Increased Muscle Gain

Spending time in a sauna is know to increase muscle gain by increasing protein production, through introduction of heat shock proteins, growth hormone and improved insulin sensitivity.

5) Stress Reduction

The heat helps to release endorphins that reduce the feelings of stress in our bodies. I love to chill out in a sauna when life is very busy.

6) Post-workout Relaxation

This is essential for anyone working out a lot. Simply being in a steam room or sauna is time to relax which aids recovery.

7) Promotes Healthy Blood Flow

The bodies capillaries dilate when they are exposed to the heat of the sauna or steam room which allows blood to flow freely and easily throughout the body, transporting oxygen to all areas of the body which needs it. 

8) Sinus Pain relief

Many people suffer from pain in their Sinuses. The heat from saunas and steam rooms opens and thins the mucus membranes all around your body. If you have a cold this is also a great help as they aid in unblocking sinuses and improving your breathing. 


Find your WHY

Clearly my brain had been working away in the background without me really being aware of it, but it wasn’t until I woke up one morning thinking ‘Oh my God, what am I doing’ that I knew I was ready to give up cigarettes, that it was no longer something that for a very long time I had considered an essential part of me. Hell, this was something I had continued to do despite watching our darling mum die for a smoking related disease. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how bad cigarettes were for me yet nothing had clicked and I still hadn’t been ready. This, I think, is at the heart of why so many efforts at improving our health and wellness fail, because people start something knowing intellectually that it is the right thing to do, but don’t really know why they want to make the change – what on a personal, visceral level will making these changes mean for them. Without this, motivation doesn’t exist, it fails at the first hurdle. Thankfully for me, this is more than 15 years ago, and I am pleased to say I have never looked back apart from the odd joke that I am going back on them when I’m 70.  

It’s all well and good to tell people to find their ‘motivation’, ‘Just get Started’ , ‘Make a change’ but if it were as simple as all that then there wouldn’t be anyone overweight, unfit, still smoking or drinking too much or any other unhealthy lifestyle habit but the truth is that we humans are much more complex than that and actually starting and sticking to making positive lifestyle changes needs a bit of thoughtful planning so that when times get tough AND THEY ALWAYS DO when making a worthwhile change, you can succeed and get to the point where you have made so much progress that you don’t ever go back to the old ways again.

So, what are some practical strategies to help you do this? You want to make changes – improve your lifestyle, your health, weight, activity levels, sleep or stress?, chances are you might have tried before and you know, you did well for a while but after a few weeks when the novelty of the idea of making changes wore off perhaps you slipped back to old ways when things got busy at work or the kids got sick or you went on holidays and went completely off the rails…. We have all been there, so what are the best strategies for planning making and sticking to the lifestyle improvements you want to make so that you can feel better, be better, sleep better and feel happier. Here are my top tips for finding what is your own personal motivation for making changes and how to use that to keep going when the going gets a bit hard.

1)     Write out what improvements to your life do you want to make? Keep it simple, don’t overload yourself with loads of goals.

2)     What will this mean for you – what is the vision of how your life is going to be when you have made these changes?

·        I want to be fit so I can ..

·        I want to give up smoking so I can …. 

·        I want to lose a stone so I can …

Apart from giving up smoking all those years ago, I also fundamentally changed how fitness is incorporated into my life, I was always sporty but not that committed to regular exercise. My ‘Why’ for staying fit and continuing to eat well is that I became a mother at a late age and I want to stay as healthy as I can for her, I hope to see her graduate, find a partner, perhaps have kids. I want all that, and that is my WHY for doing all I can to be fit and healthy. As someone who went through the shock and tremendous grief of losing my 1st husband from sudden death, I want to do my utmost that I will live as long and as healthy as I can. ….  My WHY for giving up smoking was much simpler, I don’t want to die as young as my Mum did ☹.

3)     Are you ready to make your change - do you feel it in the pit of your belly? Yes? Fantastic, but what if it is no?

This is key – someone recently asked me in a coaching session, How can I get ready, if I am honest with myself I’m don’t want to do this yet.  It is much better to be honest with yourself rather than start and fail because your self efficacy can get beaten down by previous failed attempts, but here is what you can do if you have failed before or feel you aren’t ready.

·        Think about when you failed before and note some lessons you can learn from that. Failure isn’t as simple as failure but an opportunity to learn.

·        Prepare yourself for becoming ready by gathering information on all the benefits you will feel and see when you make the changes. This is an important part of making a change – change won’t stick unless you are committed to making your change. Motivation comes from wanting something, knowing why you want it, what it will mean for you and being ready to work for it. Wanting something but not yet being ready to make the change is ok, persevere with your research, writing and exploring what making this change will mean for you until you know you are ready

4)     Make a Plan

·        What do I want? What will I do to achieve it – list the steps, When will I do it , Who will I ask for support from? What will I do if work gets crazy?, if I get sick or the kids get sick?, how will I prepare for parties or big events?

·        How will I track it (Use an App / put it in your Diary or on a sheet on the fridge)

When you make the plan, explore what makes you tick – do you need to do this with the support of people who can help you be accountable, how do you respond to goals – are you a self-starter, do you like to just get on with it, do you like a few people to help you. Thinking about this will help you make a plan which will work for you.

5)     Stick your goals and your WHY somewhere you will see it. Make sure you put it somewhere you can see it clearly whether inside your diary or on your mirror for example.

When you have done this preparation (and it doesn’t have to be a massive exercise) just spend ½ hour doing this and you will be amazed at how ready you will be to start. Get going and make sure you celebrate success as you start to achieve your goals. When the going gets tough, pull out your piece of paper with your WHY on it and remind yourself why you are doing this. This is what will keep you going – this is your personal motivation prescription, your WHY for making these changes.

Best of luck 😊, Grainne x