Healthy ways to manage stress

Healthy ways to manage stressWe’re at the halfway point on the stress less journey and today we’re going to talk about stress management techniques, and more specifically healthy ways to manage stress.

If you’ve been following along with me, I’ve looked into what’s REALLY stressing me out, I’ve considered how I react when stressful situations pop up unannounced and I’ve started my stress less action plan. Now I’m going to talk about things I try and do every day to help me manage stress.

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes feel you’re stuck in an eternal juggling act trying to keep all the balls in the air, all the while racing around between work, kindy/school pickups, appointments … the list, depending on the week, feels never ending. It was a few years into my motherhood journey, feeling completely burnt out, that I realised I really wasn’t taking very good care of me. While eternally juggling, the ball that fell quietly and rolled under the couch was an important one – self care.

I rattle on a bit about self care here, but I really believe taking good care of yourself is the key to managing stress. It doesn’t have to be the celebrity treatment like regular trips to the spa, endless massages and mani/pedis – but, hey if you can afford it, go for it! Self care is looking after your needs, desires and interests in a way you can afford and a way that makes your soul sing just a little bit. It helps you forget your worries, even just for a moment, and look more positively towards the future.

This is such an individual thing, but there’s some key things to consider when you think about managing stress and bringing some self care into your life:

1. Exercise: There have been endless studies into the effects of exercise on wellbeing and the reduction of stress is almost a universal finding. The key here, I think, is to find the exercise you love to do or make it into a social occasion by walking, or go to a class or gym, with a friend. After many years of trying different forms of exercise, I realise the introvert in me craves some solo time to recharge, so I’ve found yoga and walking are what works for my body and stress levels. I get to combine exercise with thinking and unwinding, going within and emerge all shiny and stretched out. If you haven’t found your exercise happy place, go and try something new or something you’ve always wanted to try – it may just be the right thing for you.

2. Take time out: I find taking a few little snippets of the day to just relax, helps me to stay calm. For me that looks like a cup of tea and a magazine, some writing or journaling time or a short meditation. I try and stay off social media during those times and just breathe, reflect and recharge. Of course, these time outs are sometimes interrupted by small children demanding things, so flexibility is the key here.

3. Catch up with friends: I had a moment two weeks ago when I invited a few of my close girlfriends and their little ones over for a catch up and a play. After issuing the invite I’d had a stressful week and my house wasn’t as tidy as I’d like it and I just didn’t have the time nor energy to get it to the guest level of tidiness … so, it crossed my mind to cancel. I knew they wouldn’t judge me, but I was judging me and it was stressing me out. But the only way I could get over it was to keep it real, have them over anyway and be honest about how things were. Afterwards I felt refreshed and realised all the stress about projecting a certain ‘togetherness’ wasn’t worth it. I hope now that they feel comfortable inviting me over when their house is less than perfect as the reality is I wouldn’t even notice. So invite a friend over to your less than perfect house and enjoy their company!

4. Be in the now: It’s the central premise to nearly all new age, self help inspiration and you’ve probably seen an inspirational quote on Facebook already this morning telling you to do it. When we’re stressed, we’re almost always worrying about the future or regretting something in the past, but if we sit in the now and notice what’s around us it’s usually pretty good (if you overlook the piles of washing and crumb-strewn floors). It’s not always easy. The main thing that helps me stay in the now during my day is to notice the little moments of joy … they’re always there, even amongst despair and overwhelm, I just have to stay tuned in enough to notice … a smile from my boys, a little hand in mind and a voice that demands ‘come’, a certain kind of light in the afternoon, ducks in the pond up the street, a coffee and moment of softening. I tell myself that the ‘to do’ list can wait and I follow the boy with the small hand and loud voice and I get lost in the game he wants to play. I slow down for the boy who picks up treasures in the street, who can see gold in a bottle top and magic in a plastic cup. My children take me into the now if I let them, so I throw off those responsibilities for a little while and I let them.

Do these resonate with you? I’d love to hear your stress management tips!

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Stress less action plan

Stress Action Plan Plan BlogThe start of another week is here, and I must admit I experienced a bit of a thud back to reality from my Mothers’ Day pedestal today. Back to the routine and the sometimes drudgery of the day had me a little down, but nothing a bit of morning sunshine and a neighbourhood stroll with my littlest man, after dropping my big boy at kindy, didn’t fix. Maybe you felt a bit of a thud too? So today might be the perfect time to put in place our stress less action plan.

Hopefully last Monday you were able to pinpoint some of the core things that are stressing you out. Today we’ll revisit them and note down a few key thoughts about these stressors.

So pull out your ‘what’s stressing you out list’ and ask yourself the following questions about one of the items on your list:

  • What about this can I change?
  • What can’t I change?
  • What could help me to accept the things I cannot change?
  • So, whatcha going to do about it … note down a three step action plan.

There may be more on your action plan list, and if that’s the case prioritise just the top three at this stage. Once you’ve started ticking those off you can get to the next lot. The key here is to not get too overwhelmed, you want to start taking action on what’s stressing you in a way that helps you to start feeling better about it, not scare yourself stupid and keep avoiding the issue. 

So, this week my aim is to tackle one of my biggest stressors at the moment that I mentioned in last Monday’s post:

“I’m stressing out about the realities of Jarvis having Global Developmental Delay (GDD), how we are going to afford the extra therapy required and make the right decision regarding his schooling.”

This is a bit of a three pronged one and by rereading it again the main issues that shout out at me are: realities of GDD, money, education decisions. You might want to do that with yours too – what are the main issues or worries here?

What about this can I change? I can change our budget to accommodate the extra therapy by trying to cut back in other areas, I can start meeting with our chosen schools about how their approach to teaching Jarvis to help with our decision and I can incorporate therapies at home to help facilitate his learning. 

What can’t I change? I can’t change that J had GDD and that therapy needed will be costly. I can’t change that despite all our best efforts that he either may not be ready for school next year or will need additional ongoing help. 

What can help me accept the things I can’t change?  I can focus on the fact that knowing what he has and the therapies he needs can give him the greatest chance of excelling in life to the best of his ability. To see him succeed at things that he finds difficult is a feeling like no other and is definitely priceless. 

ACTION PLAN:

1. Re-do budget to accommodate new therapy sessions and pinpoint areas to cut back.

2. Make appointments with school principals of the two schools we’re thinking of.

3. Approach home practice of therapies as fun bonding time, not another chore to be endured. Ask lots of questions about the main goals and how best to work towards them in the home environment. 

By writing this down, I already feel a bit lighter and the things that were stressing me out are now propelling me towards healthy actions instead of unhealthy thoughts.

It’s important to note that stress in itself it’s not always bad – the things we get stressed about are often things we need to attend with some urgency. So by looking at what we can actually change about the situation and then set a plan to do so gives us back control over the stress and minimises it.

So, I’m off into budget land as a first stop! How about you? Tell me all about your action plan in the comments below!

I’ve also designed a free printable to go with this task, as an exclusive to newsletter subscribers. If you haven’t yet signed up, click here.

Dealing with life’s curve balls

Copy of Stress (2)Today’s stress less post was going to be all about action plans. We’ve pinpointed the issues in our lives that have stressed us and now we’re ready to take action, yes?

But I’m going to change tack a bit today and talk about when the best laid plans don’t come to fruition, or when there’s stumbling blocks – which, let’s face it, is a daily event when you’re a mother.

Take my morning for example. I was finishing up getting ready for work. The boys were fed and dressed. I was dressed and coffee was consumed. I’d hung out washing and I looked at the clock and was surprised to see I had a little more time up my sleeve than I thought. I gave myself a mental smiley sticker and left my happily playing boys in the living area while I put on my makeup and fixed up my hair.

I was only five minutes, but the carnage that greeted me upon arrival back in the living room betrayed the short time frame. The eldest child scampered away in a clear admission of guilt, while the youngest was caught blue-handed, happily smearing blue acrylic paint all over the floor, himself and as my widened eyes scanned the room, the couch and his suede chair too.

I thought about taking a photo, as any good blogger would do, but I was overcome with the kind of white hot rage that could only be channelled into yelling and telling said children how angry I was, while simultaneously taking off clothes, washing hands, rubbing faces, mopping floors and trying in vain to remove thick acrylic paint from a textured fabric couch. It was mayhem. I was hot, bothered and beyond stressed.

I thought how ironic it was that I’d planned a post about action plans to stress less in our lives when shit like this can happen at any time, without warning, and far worse things too. So, perhaps the universe was proving a point to me this morning?

That stress isn’t always a thing that can be tied up in a neat little bow and dealt with easily. There are going to be events that shock us, that require us to dig deep, mop up and eventually recover from. My blue paint incident is just a superficial example of the shocks that life can sometimes inflict.

But when you get attacked by the blue paint of life, what is there left to do? Here are my tips:

  1. Know that you will get through it. Even the shittest moments in life are temporary and things do improve.
  2. Do what you can. Just as I mopped up the paint as best I could in order to still get to work, do what you can to deal with the impending crisis and know you’ll get to the rest later.
  3. Express your emotions. I don’t feel bad about yelling at my kids this morning as I needed to express how I was feeling at that moment. As much as yelling now seems to be on the banned list for parents, I think it’s healthier to deal with emotions when they happen rather than bottling it up. In this situation it’s helped me to move on quicker and go back to rationally talking to my children. Any emotion you’re feeling in a crisis situation needs to be expressed – the quicker, the better I believe. Cry, stomp, chuck a tantrum, yell – in private, in public, I don’t care … but express it!
  4. Cut yourself a break. I worked myself up by the fact I had to clean up, get the kids to kindy and then on the train to work. It seemed an impossible mission when I was in the blue sea of paper towels, but one thought saved me ‘You’ll get there when you get there’. I let go of the pressure of where I had to be and concentrated on what I needed to do now. That’s one thing about a crisis; it forces you to surrender to a moment. A particularly unpleasant moment, but a moment nonetheless. There’s no better time to exercise kindness to yourself, which then translated to greater kindness to my blue-handed offenders.
  5. Move on. This takes the time it takes. With my blue paint incident, it might take a day. A bigger crisis will take much longer, but whatever curve ball that life throws there will be a time for your own sanity that you’ll need to move on … in whatever form that takes for you.

So, it isn’t the post I’d planned. But life is kind of like that, isn’t it?

How do you deal with the daily curve balls that life throws? I’d love to hear about it and any more tips you have!

 

What is really stressing you out?

Copy of StressAs the calendar flipped over to May, my stomach did a little flip along with it as I embarked on a mini-mission to stress less and document the process so that other mums like me could follow along. I felt so excited to be writing about an issue close to my heart, that could potentially make a big difference in my life and those of others, but at the same time I had to be honest about the fact that in a bid to stress less, I could be entering into something that could potentially lead to more stress.

As life would have it, on that same day (May 1) my eldest son was officially diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay. A diagnosis that means more intensive therapy than we’re currently doing and a fair bit of uncertainty around if/where/how he’ll start prep next year. Despite steeling myself for whatever news we’d take with us from the Paediatrician’s office, I could feel stress sneaking in through my shallow breathing and that dull ache in the pit of my stomach.

As much as I like to think I’ve built up ways of handling my stress levels or using them to drive a positive outcome, last week showed that the bid to stress less takes constant practise and a lot of resolve when times get a little tougher.

Which means sometimes always starting from the beginning and pinpointing exactly what’s stressing you out and how you know you’re under stress to begin with.

As I mentioned in my previous post, life’s stresses will ebb and flow and we’ll never be completely free of them. The only thing we can really control is our reaction and to change our reaction, it’s helpful to know the things causing us to feel stressed and what our default reaction is.

Using my last week as an example, if I sat down with a pen and paper with ‘What’s stressing me out’ at the top (and I recommend you do this today!), I would write:

  • I’m stressing out about writing about how to handle stress as I want my words to matter and to help others and don’t always have enough time to polish my words as much as I’d like.
  • I’m stressing out about the realities of Jarvis having GDD and how we are going to afford the extra therapy required and make the right decision regarding his schooling.
  • I’m stressing out that the house is more out of control than usual as I had to change my work schedule to accommodate some extra appointments this week, so the house looks like a pigsty.

My reaction to these stressful feelings is to:

  • Google until my fingers ache and my head feels like it’s going to explode.
  • Use avoidance tactics and not write at all until the night before my next post is due.
  • Not eat as healthily as I like to, leaving me feeling blah.
  • beat myself up for the messy surrounds.

These reactions haven’t been at all helpful as they’ve only served to add another layer of stress and leave me feeling flat, rather than helping me feel calm and composed.

Are you ready to get a bit up close and personal with your own stress? Sometimes it’s hard to name exactly what’s going on, but try and dig a bit deeper as to the ‘what’ of what’s stressing you out. It’s easy just to say ‘money’ or ‘not enough time’, but if you pick a pen and dig a bit deeper you might find something lurking behind the stress that may find it easier to deal with.

For example, if I re-read the reasons for my stress I can start to feel a bit of compassion for myself. Like ‘hey, you’ve had a tough and busy week. Forget about the house mess. I know it makes you feel stressed, but you’ll get a bit more time on the weekend’. A plan of attack could also reveal itself to you, so you could start making some calm progress.

So, for the next few days just become very aware of your stress triggers and note them in some way.
1. Note what triggered the stress or if you feel you’ve been carrying it around for awhile, note when it started and what daily events keeps you feeling that way.
2. Note how you felt to make you realise you were feeling stressed, What physical sensations were stirred up?
3. How did you deal with the stressful feelings and do you think your reactions were positive or negative?

Once we’ve done this, on Friday I’ll be sharing how to come up with your own little action plan to feel more in control of the stress in your life.

I’d love to hear how you go with this. If you’re comfortable sharing, please do so in the comments. I’ll also keep you posted with how I’m going,

Thanks so much for joining me for this! xx

Are you ready to stress less?

Stress (1)

Stress

noun

“a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

It seems that stress and motherhood goes hand in hand these days, so much so that it’s almost an expected state due to our ‘demanding circumstances’ raising children, working, paying bills, taking said children to extra curricular activities, all the while making life fun and magical.

But does it have to be this way?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself more and more lately. I’ve never experienced as much stress and I have in the last four-and-half years spent in the trenches of motherhood and I would hazard a guess that I’m not alone.

Yesterday, I did a quick inventory of the things stressing me out, and these were the thoughts that popped into my head:

  • Paediatrician’s appointment for my eldest son addressing a developmental delay. What are we going to find out? And how much is it going to cost?
  • Organising work around the appointment so I get the work I need done to keep my employer happy while meeting my family demands.
  • The house is a mess and I don’t know what we’re having for dinner tonight.
  • Big bills to pay, all due in the next couple of weeks.
  • I promised to blog all of May about stress, and I’m stressing out about it.
  • Not keeping in better touch with my best friends by phone or catching up.

You get the drift. The list ebbs and flows every day, but some of the themes remain the same. There never seems enough time and so many competing demands, leaving me often in a state of anxiety. Maybe you feel that way too? And you want to break the cycle and get a bit more control over the stress levels?

It’s my aim this month to methodically break down what’s causing me stress and come up with action plan to stress less. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and processes this month and invite you to get busy with me in pinpointing what you’re own key stressors are and how you can feel in more control again.

There’s no denying that being a mother is challenging, but I passionately believe it shouldn’t take a toll on our wellbeing, be it physical, mental or spiritual.

Who wants to join me? Monday we’ll start off with an exercise to get honest about what’s causing us stress and move on from there – with new posts up on Monday and Friday. So come and join me and get ready to stress less!