Being stressed causes us to release cortisol that has been described as ‘public health enemy number one’. While some stress can be good for motivating us, chronic stress is associated with inhibiting learning and memory, lowering immune function, weight gain, increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease, as well as depression and mental illness.
After realising I had been suffering from burn out, I had been focussing on work-life balance and nurturing my wellbeing for months. It was therefore caught off guard when I found myself feeling stressed recently.
Without realising it, I had got back into old habits and it brought back old experiences that I thought I had let go. What I learned is that we always have to be mindful. It turns out I still struggle to deal with pressure (in this case a huge to-do list) when I don’t follow my morning routine and I don’t get enough sleep.
I’ve posted before about the peripheral vision technique I use to create focus and concentration and get into a peak state, When I don’t do it I end up starting lots of tasks as I’m distracted by the next task that pops into my head - especially if I’m on the computer and the social media alerts and emails are popping up.
This morning it led me to create a stressful situation for myself. I was feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list that would take all week and I got into an old thought pattern of worrying that I don’t have enough time. And then the unhelpful self-talk started.
Stress is our reaction to pressure. Pressure is created by outside influence and demands, but it is what goes on in our head that creates the stress. We create an internal narrative about an event in the future, an event that hasn’t happened and is therefore not real. And if it’s not real we can change it.
I put into practice some of the techniques we teach for managing our resilience:
- I remembered to breathe. Just the act of focussing on our breathing brings us back to now and away from the imagined event. I sat down and did that for about 3 minutes.
- It allowed me to acknowledge the feeling of stress. Accepting that feeling meant I was listening to my body, I could let it go and I could change something.
- I changed my negative self talk to how I would speak to my best friend in that situation, kind words and tone with compassion and helpful advice.
- I reframed my sentences taking out the must/should words that create negativity and a sense of loss of control and instead I focussed on the choices I had.
- I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen.
- I asked myself what was the mostly likely outcome in the situation.
- I asked myself what was the most important task on my list so that I could prioritise by urgency and importance.
And I told myself that there is time. And that became my mantra for the day. I got to where I needed to go without the drama, with hard work and focus, compassion and being my own inner cheerleader.