Have you ever felt drained to the point of not wanting to talk to anyone, or like you might lose your cool over the smallest problem or delay? Oh boy, I have felt this way so many times.
You have so many pressures and responsibilities to carry. Every day you are obsessing over what other people think, want, and need. Are you performing well enough, are you providing well enough, are YOU enough...
Well, I've got news for you, if you hadn't noticed yet, what YOU need should be just as high on your priority list!
Some of your needs should even be met before anyone's else's. For many of us, this is often counterintuitive, especially if you are a mother because self-sacrifice is part of the job description.
If you have ever travelled on an aeroplane, you're likely to recall the in-flight safety demonstrations. During these safety instructions, the flight attendants are insistent that adults put their own oxygen masks on, before assisting children. This guideline should not be reserved only for situations such as an aeroplane emergency.
If other people are dependent on us, we should first ensure that our own physical and mental health is taken care of. We can not fill another's cup if our own cup is empty. If we are drained and unwell, then our energy, stamina, and focus are easily depleted, which means we can not care and provide well for those that depend on us, and they also suffer.
In this article I will share with you some of the best ways through which we can disconnect, relax, refresh, and recharge.
Sometimes, dealing with stress and anxiety can be so much easier, when you have the right coping mechanisms by your side.
Aromatherapy can no longer be seen as a placebo. Many studies, testing the effect of Essential Oil inhalation, have hinted at how powerful it can be.
The aromatherapy blend I've shared below is so convenient that you don't even need to use an oil burner. Put a few drops of the mixture on a piece of fabric, and keep it with you.
A WORD OF CAUTION: As with all therapeutic methods, please ensure that these oils do not interact with medications you are using and that they are safe to use in case of specific health conditions. Pregnant women are cautioned to avoid all Essential Oils, until after the first trimester, but Clary Sage should be avoided throughout pregnancy, as it can cause contractions.
Aromatherapy Relax Blend
1 teaspoon carrier oil (e.g. sweet almond, jojoba, evening primrose, virgin olive oil)
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops chamomile essential oil
1 drop clary sage essential oil (avoid during pregnancy)
Use in a diffuser or burner, dab on skin or fabric, or as a simple relaxing massage oil
Relaxation technique using aromatherapy
Whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, take out a piece of fabric that you've dabbed with the essential oil blend.
Hold it close to your nose (not against it) and smell it, breathing in and out very slowly.
Breathe in and slowly count 1...2...3... , breathe out and slowly count 1...2...3 , keep doing that for a minute or so.
Focus on nothing else but the wonderful complex aroma. Imagine a lavender mist flowing out of the fabric and into your nose.
As you keep breathing slowly in, slowly out, you sense the lavender mist moving through your brain, then into your face.
As it moves through your brain and then your face, you can feel the tension leaving your mind.
Notice how your mind is clearing and your clarity returning.
When you are ready, you may resume your daily tasks, feeling relaxed, clear and focused.
Get active outdoors
Regular exercise has the ability to improve stress levels drastically, even in those suffering from depression. To optimise the amazing benefits of your workout, take it outside.
Why exercise outside?
- Reduce adrenaline and cortisol
- Increase endorphins, serotonin and Vitamin D
- Result: A happier and healthier YOU!
Nourish your body
While I was working in the corporate world, there were many days that I was so pressured with deadlines, my stress levels would shoot through the roof. On days like these, when I did find time to go out and buy lunch, I would gravitate towards fatty takeout food or sugary starches. It was as if my brain was saying to my stomach, "Go on, you deserve it after the day you've had, reward yourself!".
I am NOT a fan of strict diets, where you have to limit your caloric intake and eliminate certain food groups completely, and I still occasionally indulge in a treat. But turning to comfort food every time you are stressed or worn out, definitely isn't a sustainable or positive strategy for your health.
A better alternative would be to focus on adding more nutrient dense whole foods. Healthy eating can help your body and brain withstand the effects of tension and anxiety, by strengthening the immune system, balancing moods, and reducing blood pressure.
Essential nutrients to reduce stress:
Eating more foods high in Vitamin C, can help boost your immune system, lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone), as well as your blood pressure. 1 Large orange contains 82 mg; ½ cup chopped raw Red Peppers contains 95 mg; 1 cup Kale contains 80 mg.
Complex carbohydrates can prompt the brain to increase serotonin production and stabilise blood pressure as a way to reduce stress. The complex carbs in your diet should be mainly fruits and vegetables. Whole grains are also good carbs, as long as you stick to true whole grains. Some great examples include Amaranth, Barley, Brown Rice, Buckwheat and Bulgur. They should always be unprocessed, unrefined and sprouted or soaked. When shopping for whole grain foods, check labels: for every 10 grammes of carbohydrate, there should be at least 1 gramme of fibre.
Maintaining adequate amounts of magnesium through your diet is essential for avoiding symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. Magnesium is critical to heart function and appears to protect against hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease. In individuals with a Magnesium deficiency, the artery walls are constricted. Using a daily Magnesium supplement can also help to relieve PMS mood changes. Healthy sources of magnesium include spinach or other leafy greens, salmon, and soybeans.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
An increased intake of omega-3's has been shown to reduce surges of stress hormones and also protect against heart disease, depression, and PMS. Good sources of these fatty acids are oily fish (like salmon and tuna), nuts, and seeds (like flax seeds, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds).
Switch off your cell phone and all other signal emitting devices
Most of us have our cell phones (or other internet devices) nearby throughout the day, to check messages, calls, social media etc. Often we keep them next to us up to 24 hours a day, checking them multiples times an hour.
While they may make our lives easier and more entertaining, they can also increase our stress levels.
In order for your brain and body to process all the business of your day, and recover from the tension and anxiety you experienced during your waking hours, you need good quality and quantity sleep.
Did you know that EMFs (electromagnetic fields), emitted by devices such as cell phones, wireless networks, and even digital baby monitors, can disturb your sleep?
Checking your cell phone or other internet devices constantly can also hinder you from relaxing during your tea break, lunch break, or even while at home. This is because of pressures such as deadlines, crises, and other stressors, remaining on your mind constantly, increasing tension and anxiety quite noticeably.
Why not take a break from all of this exhausting technology? Go somewhere off the grid, where there will be no network reception or other distractions, so you can truly live in the moment. Better yet, go there with a friend!
A landmark UCLA study in 2000 showed that, for women, having a circle of friends provides an alternative to the instinctual fight-or-flight response to stress. The researchers called this response "tend-and-befriend". It showed that when women get together with other women (and with children), they release more oxytocin (the love hormone), which has a substantial calming effect.
This is a perfect excuse to take that long overdue break with your kids or a friend. Go on that road trip, camp by that river, hike up that mountain, wherever your feet may take you.
If you liked this article, let me know in the comments what you found most interesting, or what changes you struggle with the most.