Up until about two years ago I always thought I dealt well with stress. I wasn’t the type of person who’d have panic attacks, break out into hives or become an alcoholic when things got overwhelming, I would just take a few deep breaths and get back to it. But then I decided to go see an RMT for my tired running legs and quickly discovered that wasn’t exactly the case.
From the very first session she kept having to tell me to relax my muscles. When she’d finish with one and start on another I began to notice that I started tightening the muscle she was just working on, I wasn’t even conscious of doing it, it would just happen. So I began to just observe my body doing this throughout the course of my session and I started to talk to my RMT about it. I said that I wasn’t really a stressful person but then she was very quick to point out that I was most likely directing my stress inwards. Whereas some people deal with stress with outside means such as doing something creative, talking to others or even being angry and stomping their feet and other such things, I held everything inside. Just like any emotion, stress has to go somewhere and if you decide to keep it inside it’s just going to go to the closest place it can find: your muscles and the rest of your body. When she said that, I knew instantly she was right. I was in the midst of working a full time job, starting a business on the side, finishing up a university degree and focusing on getting my health behaviours under control (which included running races) all at the same time. There’s no way someone cannot feel stress over that and I was kidding myself into thinking that I was able to manage it all. Instead of allowing myself to relax, recharge and just give my body a break from all of this I absorbed the stress like a sponge to the point that my whole body was as tight as big wad of dried up gum. This could explain not just my overly tight muscles but my TMJ issues and possibly even my migraines.
We tend to forget that our body and minds are not separate. They are all part and parcel of the same being. Our body’s absorb our emotions, whatever they are and although some of us would like to think that we have it all together (totally staring into a mirror as I typed that out), the truth is that most of us don’t. Pretending that you don’t need help or that you can manage it all is not doing you or anyone else a favour. Just like it’s bad for your body to eat junk food and sit around all day, it’s just as bad to swallow your emotions and pretend everything’s cool.
We also have a tendency to feel that we don’t need time to ourselves. That because we should be able to handle everything just fine, we don’t give ourselves the break we need (notice I didn’t say “deserve” but “need” because this is essential). If you want to be everything to everyone, you’re going to need to take some time to rest up and recharge yourself because all of this awesomeness doesn’t happen without a lot of work! Just like you’re entitled to vacation days at work, you need vacation time several times a week so that your body and mind can relax and get ready to do it all again.
So since that first RMT session I have been on a quest to learn how to relax without guilt and here are the nine best ways I have learned to relax, recharge and manage my stress!
- I’ve mentioned it before but journalling is a phenomenal way to get your emotions out of your body. Even if it’s not proper sentences and just a bunch of descriptive words, writing it out is a powerful means of stress release. If your emotions need to go somewhere, you might as well put them on paper instead of balling it up inside!
- Getting a good, hard core sweat on is a time-honoured stress reliever. This is because exercise produces endorphins, those feel good hormones, that create a feeling of euphoria in our body’s! When you’re stressed out, do a challenging workout and leave it all on the mat (along with your copious litres of sweat)!
- I know some people find regular old hatha yoga boring but for me, I can’t get enough. I put my body under a lot of strain during exercise, I am a fan of bootcamp style, HIIT training and pounding my legs out on the pavement so Hatha yoga – the more gentler style of yoga – is the perfect style of yoga to give back to my body. Aligning my breath to movement and flowing gently not only helps to heal my body but it also causes my stresses to just melt out and away from my body.
Eat fruits and veggies
- Eating fresh freggies helps us to keep a clear mind and makes us feel lighter and more energized. When you feel focused and energized, you’re better able to handle stress. When your body is heavy and clouded, as can happen when you eat heavier foods like red meat and processed food, we have a harder time coping. For a great freggie boost, try making a Green Monster: 2 handfuls of spinach, 1 cup of milk of your choice, 1/2 banana and a scoop of p.b. Blend it all up and drink! You won’t taste the spinach AT ALL (trust me on this) and you’ll feel like a million bucks afterwards!
- When your environment or your life is cluttered, it causes unneeded stress. Many people just put off easy tasks because they’re easy and can be done later but then they just sit there for days and you know you should do something about it but then you just don’t and before you know it there’s mould in the sink and the toilet hasn’t been cleaned in months. When something needs doing, just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t remind yourself to do it later, if you have the time right now, just get it done! Then you won’t have to worry about it later! There’s a great rule that I try to live by now: If it’ll take you less than two minutes to do, do it right away. If you don’t have time right away, literally write it down on a calendar to make sure it gets done.
- I hate to burst your bubble but you literally cannot do it all. It’s not that you’re not capable or worthy it’s just that it’s literally impossible to do everything, so stop pretending that you can and learn to delegate! Teach your children to do the laundry themselves or ask your spouse to help out. If you can’t do either, budget someone to come in and help you clean up. It is NOT important that YOU personally clean your house or do your laundry, there are plenty of people in the world that need the extra cash that you can pay to help you out. This also goes for your career, learn to delegate! We create far too much stress on ourselves because we don’t seek help!
Take a breather
- Whether you use this time to have a bubble bath, read a gossip rag or pick your bellybutton lint, make sure you take a bit of time out for yourself if not every day, several days a week. Demand your time if necessary. Shut yourself in your bedroom and tell your spouse to not let the kids bug you or get out of the house if you must. You need time to wind down and get in touch with yourself. Not you as a mom or wife or employee but you as Sarah or Jane or Erin or Kristen. Find something that makes you ridiculously happy and go do it, ALONE!
Create a mantra
- I know it may sound a little kooky but mantra’s are handy to have when you find yourself in a stressful situation. Mantras are short sentences that remind you of something you’re trying to accomplish or get through. Something such as “My body is relaxed and my mind is clear” or “I do not have to be everything to everyone” that you can repeat several times can help you to ground yourself into the moment and calm yourself down. Ideally, take three nice and deep breaths while either repeating your mantra in your head or out loud and then finish with three more deep breaths. We easily get stressed when our mind is racing a mile a minute so taking the time to get back into the present moment and remind ourselves to calm down can be very powerful.
- Go ahead and treat yourself to something nice! I’m not normally an advocate for retail therapy but for a lot of us we have a tendency to not do nice things for ourselves because we’re too busy doing for others. Take yourself out either alone or with a friend who makes you laugh and treat yourself to a pedicure, new outfit, a
magnumglass of wine or a spa treatment. Give yourself permission to do something nice for yourself because you deserve it. You work hard every day and you’d never let someone else work as hard as you do without going unnoticed so notice yourself for once!
I know it feels that doing any or all of these is more of a luxury but seriously, when did feeling good and treating ourselves properly end up becoming a bad thing?! It seems a bit stupid when you think about it. When you feel good, you help other people to feel good. When you feel stressed, other people around you start to feel stressed so why not do everyone a favour and take care of yourself!?
Photo Credit: World of Peace