todays stresses are different and here is how to offset them easilyRead More
We offer a focused stress management coaching course. Here are some tips to help you manage your stress.Read More
I talk about sleep a lot and the health and wellness industry generally is starting to have more conversations about the importance of sleep. It is such a simple thing when it is going right for people but when it is not working it is absolutely miserable to be walking around sleep deprived, wanting to sleep but not being able to get a good night sleep and it can really impact our health, happiness, memory and learning. From time to time my sleep gets impacted and I can wake at 3am and clock watch for the rest of the night – I have learnt that for me it is a symptom of something else needing to be attended to, something I am worrying about or something which is on my mind, something I need to do which I haven’t yet got my mind in the place to do it – once I figure out what is going on for me then usually it gets back into its proper routine.
We all have unique patterns of sleep and they change with our stage in life from most of the day as very small babies, to staying up later as teenagers (and wanting to wake later) to 2 phase sleep as an older adult with the amount of time in very slow wave deep sleep shortening with age.
Some of us jump around a lot as we enter sleep and then of course there is problem of snoring or having a partner who snores (not mentioning anyone in particular!) which can really disrupt both theirs and others sleep. Heavy snoring should always be investigated to rule out sleep apnea and their unfortunate partner might find ear plugs a benefit.
Some people swear by a nap in advance of nights out but actually all the research shows that unless you have insomnia, that naps can really disrupt your sleep pattern and if you really need one then keep it under 30 minutes so that you don’t start to enter deeper sleep .
Sleep Hygiene habits are good to develop and here is my favourite list of things which work for me but remember that insomnia is not something that is cured by normal sleep hygiene recommendations but all the research shows that it responds pretty well to a structured program of CBT I – cognitive behavioural therapy for sleep (not what you might understand as CBT).
1. One of the best regulators of your circadian rhythms (which help regulate your awakeness and sleep) is daylight so any day you can get outside is a help as well as helping you get some Vit D – if you like camping then a weekend of camping is just the thing to help reset your internal clock.
2. Blue Light at night tells your Pineal gland to stop emitting Melatonin which we need for sleep so I know you have heard it before but seriously, what are the devices doing in your room?
3. Magnesium – Can help sleep, a good quality spray to rub into legs and arms just before bed.
4. Warm bath or hot water bottle – Your body responds to the heat to lower its temperature so you start to have better sleep conditions as it prefers to be cooler.
5. Blackout blind – sleep in total darkness is best.
6. Ear plugs – if you are a light sleeper or have a partner who snores, invest in a pair.
7. One of the best things you can do to keep your circadian patterns in synch is to maintain a regular sleep schedule. This means getting into bed and up at roughly the same time every day including your weekends.
8. If you tend to wake in the middle of the night very suddenly, this can be a sign of elevated Cortisol levels causing stress, this is an article for another day but we have written lots on managing stress and if you need help check our articles.
I have often been asked what can you do if you are on the night shift and the truth is that it is very hard on the body to be on night shift, it is completely contra to the way we are wired. All well and good for those of us not having to do it for work so I always suggest you should consider eating well before or as early into the shift as possible or even eating very lightly until back in day light hours (Ideally do not eat between midnight at 6am) Avoid caffeine during the night shift and supplement with Vitamin D. Try and get exercise in too to give you all the help you can get as all the evidence says that the body finds it very difficult to remain healthy If under conditions of constant night shift.
I have always been fond of an early night, getting into the bed all nice and warm with a good book and when I was young and still living at home, I loved to read often into the late hours until I had the book read. Nowadays as a parent I treasure my sleep even more and I rarely stay up late watching TV as I would much rather be in bed getting some rest or reading a book I am enjoying. Either way, make sure you are giving your body the respect it deserves with some decent sleep for health happiness and recovery or seek help if you are having trouble.
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.
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.
What to eat and other tips for busy timesRead More
Not all stress is unnatural and there is no way we can avoid having stress in our lives so it’s important to remember that stress is meant to occur either to save our lives or to help us perform when something matters to us…. you know, like exams, work presentations, interviews and the like. As the saying goes ‘Just another cold night on the side of Everest’ feeling the stress during these situations is perfectly natural and not to be feared - it will eventually pass and there are lots of things you can do to help you stay resilient during these stressful periods.
It is the other type of stress – the always on chronic stress that many of us have in our lives and for some of us has become such an everyday occurrence that we don’t even realise how tightly wound our internal elastic band is. For me, I was chronically stressed with work and poor sleep when Eva was a toddler and she was sleeping really badly in response, as she felt my stress and needed me even more when my only thought was to try get her to bed and asleep so that I could work. Eventually my elastic band snapped and I started yelling for her to go back to sleep ☹…. That was my wake-up call to finally realise how out of control my stress had become and when I look back at this period in my life I realise there were so many signs I had missed on the road to getting to this point.
What are your personal stress signals and how can you recognise them and deal with them so that you don’t let yourself get over whelmed? Any or all of the following are pointers to being over stressed:-
Feeling panicked or overwhelmed
Inability to think clearly and make decisions
The ideal situation is that we never let it get to this point and to be proactive in taking responsibility for our mental, emotional and physical needs. Find your own ‘Stress Resilience Prescription’ – those things which help you burn the feelings of stress away. There are lots of known stress relievers - find what works for you and have a little of it every day!-
Exercise – burns stress, just make sure you don’t constantly over do it in a workout as you are just adding fuel to the fire if you are very stressed
Good Food – Lots of good food, fresh veg and fruit all help and do your best to avoid highly processed sugar laden good or excess alcohol during times of stress
Talking and Time with friends – a good laugh works wonders but the science behind t is that talking and time with friends releases oxytocin which protects you in times of stress so the temptation might be to duck away from meeting people but don’t!
Accentuate the positive – we always hear about trying to avoid stressors or people who cause us stress but allowing ourselves to remember good times and really staying in the moment during good times, feeling gratitude for what we have, builds a resilience bank which helps us cope if in times of stress.
Finding time for our hobbies and being outdoors – these two are central to staying resilient during stressful times – finding time to get outdoors is central to keeping our connection to the earth we live on and feeling part of something bigger than ourselves, and keeping time in the diary for our favourite hobby allows the body and mind to recharge especially if we can get so absorbed in it that we find our flow. Even if it is crazy at work, some predictable down time will help you cope and perform better!
Finally, one of the most common behaviours which leads to huge stress is cognitive distortion or what I like to all ‘disasterising’ where your mind puts a spin on things, always in a negative pattern, assuming the worse will or has happened when the truth is usually innocuous. You know when someone hasn’t phone you when they said they would and you assume ‘Oh no, I bet they met someone else’ or you see your boss with what you assume is a cross face and think that you have done something wrong or they weren’t happy with your work….. This is so common (Hand up!) and the problem is that our poor bodies get the stress response as if it has happened because it doesn’t know the difference between what your mind is telling it has happened and what has in fact happened! Think about this and if it is you, try recognise this for what it is and stop these thoughts. The more you recognise it, the easier it will be to nip it in the bud.
It’s not always easy but getting good at recognising your stress signals will mean you can cope better and stay well during periods of stress.
Good Trainers have a well thought out training philosophyRead More
Sleep - An absolute must have to be healthy and well but torture if you suffer from poor sleep.Read More