This post was originally written for, and appears on, the Loving Earth blog.
Life is running faster than it ever has done before…we are now exposed to as much data and information in one day as someone from the 1600’s experienced in an entire lifetime, no wonder we’re feeling more stressed and overwhelmed!
21st Century illnesses such as adrenal fatigue, stress, and anxiety are ever increasing meaning more and more of us are feeling the affects in a very real way. Of course life can’t be smooth sailing all the time, and our bodies are designed to cope with occasional pockets and peaks of stress, but the trouble comes when we start running these peaks together with stressful situation after stressful situation, until eventually it becomes the norm and then that’s the level we operate at every day.
When we push ourselves repeatedly, eventually our body says ‘no more’ and stops. That’s why you get the cold when you have finally given yourself some time and space to catch up on sleep and recuperate from the constant pressures that daily life throws at you. The fight and flight hormones of cortisol and adrenaline slowly start leaving your system, clearly signalling that it’s ‘safe’ and your nervous system breathes a big sigh of relief.
So what can we do?
Use what is easy, free and innate…your breath. Breathing, more specifically diaphragmatic breathing (breathing from your diaphragm – no holding in of the stomach here I’m afraid) is one of the simplest and most effective ways to engage your parasympathetic nervous system (the one that tells you to calm down and that all is OK in the world). It’s great to do at work or in the car when you’re feeling under the pump.
Take the time to plan rest into your week and build in a ritual or routine that signals to the body that you’re on a break and it’s time to switch off. Maybe it’s a gentle yoga sequence in the morning to wake your body up gently, rather than hitting snooze for the tenth time and running late for the rest of the day. Maybe it’s committing to getting into bed a little earlier on weeknights or not filling every spare moment with errands, admin, or social engagements.
Try not to reach for the coffee at 3 pm. Easy to say, hard to do, however, it will help you understand your natural energy levels and also ensure that your body has had the time to process the caffeine before it’s time for bed.
Get to know when you’re feeling a little lazy (hello seventh episode on Netflix) and when you need to pull back and not go 110% above and beyond. Friends will have birthdays next year, the gym will be there tomorrow, and the world will keep turning if you get an extra hour of sleep.
Lifestyle is what gets us into these patterns, but it also means it’s lifestyle that can help us out. Take some time to have a proper look at where your time and energy are going and decide to de-clutter anything that isn’t serving you anymore. Even if it means canceling your Netflix account for a bit.