If you missed last weeks article, I suggest reading part 1 before continuing. I spoke about how stress and our inability to cope with the daily demands and pressures often leads to “burnout” and the habit of wishing our days away. I covered tips such as thinking about the food we eat and how it affects our bodies and stress levels, how we can set ourselves up for success and avoid temptations which are harmful to us, and the importance of movement and staying active. Here are a few more pointers I have learned along the way.
Sunshine is the best medicine
Ever heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – also known as “winter depression”)? I can very much relate to it! As mentioned in my previous post, I love summer and sometimes feel very down in winter (how I would struggle to live in the UK!). Sunshine plays a massive role in our health (taking into account that too much can be harmful). We all know that we need sun exposure to maintain our vitamin D levels, but it also increases our brain’s serotonin levels (our “happy hormones”). A few minutes outside in natural sunlight is often enough to calm down rising stress levels and return a smile to one’s face. As Helen Keller famously quoted, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow”.
Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive
This is SO important. Make a list of the things which bring joy to your life: painting, reading, cooking, travelling, spending time with friends, singing, writing. Then, make time for them! Yes, make the time. If we don’t prioritize and set aside time for recreation and enjoyment, we will never find the time. Even if it is just once a week, start with that and see what a difference it makes!
Your future depends on your dreams… go to sleep!
This is one of my biggest downfalls. I can be eating well, exercising regularly, doing the things I love… then undo it all with a few nights of little sleep. A good night’s rest is vital for staying healthy and managing stress! While we sleep, our bodies have a chance to rest, restore and renew. In addition, I am sure that most of you will agree that trying to make wise decisions while suffering from exhaustion or lack of sleep is just plain crazy and counter-productive. So when planning your day, don’t forget to leave enough time for sleep.
Unity is strength… the importance of family and friends
So often, when I feel like the world is on my shoulders, a single word or simple gesture will be enough to lift my burdens and spur me on. I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing network of supportive family and friends who have gotten me through many a tough day. Whether family, friends or coworkers, find those whom you trust and who will hold you accountable, even those who are not scared to tell you the truth. Sometimes a hug or a shoulder to cry on is all it takes, while in certain instances, a hard push or knock on the head is necessary to snap one out of a negative and anxious state of mind! Don’t underestimate the power of a supportive team behind you… “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!”
Have an attitude of gratitude
I recently read a book called A Long Walk to Water which recounts the true story of the remarkable Salva Dut. His harrowing but inspiring story of survival, perseverance and determination has yet again reminded me that I truly have much for which to be thankful. My stresses and troubles seem like drops in an ocean compared to what this young man (and many others) have gone through. This year especially, I am trying to be more purposeful about focusing on the many good and positive things in my life rather than the negative. Stuck in slow-moving traffic? How thankful I am to have a car! Feeling a bit under the weather? I am grateful for my overall good health when so many others are bed-ridden. Exams or report-writing seem too overwhelming? I count myself blessed to have access to education and the ability to even study, read and write. And the list goes on! This seemingly simple activity really puts everything into perspective and I soon realize that I am too blessed to stress! I challenge you right now, make a list of all you are thankful for – I can almost guarantee that it will far outweigh the negatives in your life! Then, make a point of being grateful each and everyday, even if it is just one thing, and watch how your stresses start melting away.
Faith in Someone higher than I
Finally, I am not ashamed to say that my ultimate stress-reliever is my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Although I need to actively take every thought captive (especially the negative ones) and ensure that I am doing all I can to eliminate stress (as mentioned in the tips above), there comes a point when even my best efforts fail. I am especially thankful that even in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, He is faithful and that He can turn each and every circumstance around. He is my strength when I am weak and I would truly not be where I am today without my His constant guidance, wisdom and love.
In closing, I want to encourage you; choose just one of the above tips and make the necessary changes. Set yourself up for success and don’t allow yourself to reach burnout before you make a move. Prevention is indeed better than cure. And finally…. don’t forget to smile and breathe!! 🙂